The mortgage and deed to my old home are still in my name. I was divorced five years ago. At the time, the California judge said my ex-wife could finance the home at her convenience to get me off the loan and deed. How do I force her to remove me? If I am on the deed, does she need my signature to refinance?
You could go back to the judge and request an order to force your ex-wife to remove your name from the property by refinancing. The issue is whether she has the ability to refinance. If her finances are poor or she’s unemployed or otherwise unable to refinance, it will be hard to force her to do something that she is generally incapable of doing.
But if she has the ability and has not gone through with it, then the judge’s order could do the trick. However, you may have to incur legal fees to get it done. If the divorce judge no longer has jurisdiction on your case, you might have to sue her to force her to refinance. And that could get quite expensive.
There are no good solutions to your situation unless your ex-wife has the desire to cooperate and take you off the title and loan at the same time. You should take a bit of comfort that your wife can’t sell the home unless she gets you to sign off on the title to the new buyer. Likewise, she shouldn’t be able to refinance the home without your signature. (Apparently, you are still the owner of the home, and as an owner she’d need your signature to do anything with the home that would require an owner signature.)
If she decides to sell the home, the sale should require the payoff of the existing mortgage. That would take your name off the loan and ownership of the home. Likewise, if she refinances, she’d take out a new loan, pay off the old one and take you off the title to the home at the same time. We prefer to know that you have some control over the property until the loan is repaid.
You should also make sure that she is paying that mortgage on time and in full so that your own credit doesn’t suffer. And please be aware that while you own that home, you should make sure that any liability insurance you have covers you for liability issues having to do with that home.
For example, if someone is injured at your old home, that person will sue the owners for their injuries. Because you are still an owner, they could sue you. Whether they recover anything from you may not be the issue; the litigation defense will be costly and you’ll want to make sure that you have insurance to cover that. If you have a general umbrella insurance policy, that policy may give you the coverage you need. Talk to your insurance agent and see what they suggest for you.
In the meantime, if you are in regular communication with your ex-wife, you might suggest that interest rates seem to be rising and that she should try to lock in the low rates that we have now — particularly if today’s rates are lower than the loan she is currently paying — and see if she is enticed to refinance.
As an added incentive, you could offer to pay some of her closing costs just to be done with the home and the old loan and remove yourself from that situation. Good luck.
Ilyce Glink is the creator of an 18-part webinar+ebook series called “The Intentional Investor: How to Be Wildly Successful in Real Estate” as well as the author of many books on real estate. She also hosts the “Real Estate Minute” on her YouTube channel. Samuel J. Tamkin is a Chicago-based real estate attorney. Contact them at ThinkGlink.com.