Is a Quitclaim Deed on a House Binding in a Divorce?

By Heather Frances J.D.

Often, a divorcing couple's biggest asset is the home they own together, and this home must be split with their other possessions during their divorce. A divorce court can award the house to one spouse, which often requires the other spouse to sign a quitclaim deed to give his ownership rights to the other spouse. This type of deed is legally binding to transfer ownership, but it does not remove a spouse's name from the mortgage.

Property Ownership

Quitclaim deeds are just as legally effective to transfer property as warranty deeds. Warranty deeds are common when transferring property between strangers since they warrant, or guarantee, that the person transferring the property has clear title to the property and the legal right to do so. Quitclaim deeds are often used to transfer ownership between spouses since they do not contain this type of guarantee. Rather, a properly filed quitclaim deed merely transfers whatever ownership rights the deed's signer has to the new owner. Thus, by using a quitclaim deed, one spouse is giving up her ownership rights to the other spouse but isn't guaranteeing that she owns any part of the property. This protects her if there should later be a problem with the title to the property.

Mortgage Responsibility

Quitclaim deeds do not remove the transferring spouse from responsibility to pay the mortgage on the property. Instead, the transferring spouse loses her ownership over the property but remains liable for mortgage payments. To remove herself from mortgage liability, the transferring spouse must ensure that the owning spouse refinances the mortgage in his name only. The couple can include a refinancing requirement or other provisions in their divorce decree to address the transferring spouse's mortgage liability.

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