You should know it would be highly unusual and improbable that a lender would refinance a loan on a home without the consent of all of the owners. Several scenarios could describe what may have happened to you.
First, you thought you were on the title to the home when only your husband’s name was on it. Second, your husband either had you sign your ownership of the home over to him or he forged your name on a deed conveying ownership of the home from both of your names to your name, thereby allowing him to refinance the loan on the property and strip out the equity.
We suggest you have your attorney do a bit of digging. Your attorney should be able to obtain copies of the documents that might show when (and if) you owned the property and when you “transferred” the property.
With the first document, you’ll understand whether you were an owner of the home, and when. With the second document, you’ll see when you ceased owning the home. Inspecting that second document will reveal who signed it. If you recognize the signature, you may have signed it and not known what you were signing. If the signature is false, you’ll know it was forged.
However, it’s been a number of years since this transaction occurred, and that does not help your case. If you’ve known about it for some time and have done nothing, you might be in trouble. For now, we’ll assume that you can take action in either of these situations.
And, by the way, if the bank “refinanced” the property when you were on title, and they were sloppy and failed to get your signature, the bank will be in trouble, as they may not have a valid lien on the home.
If your husband forged your name on the deed and took your name off the title to the home, you have a fraud issue. In this circumstance, you’d have to claim that your hands were clean throughout the process. You can’t go after your husband or have a claim against the bank when you benefitted from the fraud or had a part in it. We’re not suggesting that you did, but you certainly have to have clean hands along the way.
Again, even if your husband forged your name on a document, you might be able to get your name restored on the title to the property with your husband, but the lien of the lender may or may not be valid. Depending on the laws in your state, the lender may have a partially valid lien on the home. Or, depending on the circumstances, the lender’s lien might be invalidated by a court. Your attorney should be able to walk you through these issues.
Now, if you signed the deed and didn’t know what you were signing, that may be on you. You may be able to deal with that issue through the divorce, but most people have to be responsible for knowing and understanding what they are signing.
Given your predicament, it’s good that you are using an attorney for your divorce. If you find that there has been fraud, you may have to file a police report and notify the lender. We urge you to research and get as much information as possible. When your husband refinanced the property, you might have been aware of what he was doing, and the law does not take kindly to people who sit by and see a problem develop but don’t work to stop it.
Ilyce R. Glink’s latest book is “Buy, Close, Move In!”
Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. If you have questions, you can call Ilyce’s radio show toll-free (800-972-8255) any Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Contact Glink and Tamkin through her Web site, www.thinkglink.com.