Q: I was divorced a few years ago and was awarded the house. My ex-spouse never deeded me the property like he was supposed to, and I have no way to track him down. How can I get his name off my house? — Kelly
A: I speak with many people whose spouse was supposed to deed over the house after the divorce was final and never did.
Sometimes it is a matter of tracking down your ex-spouse to get a deed to the property. While there is usually some resistance at first, the threat of being dragged back into divorce court usually will convince them to sign the deed.
Things become more complicated if your former spouse passed away or moved overseas. When this happens, you will usually need to go back to the court to transfer the property fully into your name.
Going back to court will cost you time and money, so the best bet is to avoid this situation entirely by ensuring the property gets deeded over at the end of the divorce case. If you are using an attorney for your divorce, remind them to help you get the deed signed.
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While on this subject, deeds between divorcing couples are usually of the quit-claim deed variety.
With a quit-claim deed, the person signing it is merely transferring whatever interest in the property they have but is not making any warranties contained in a warranty deed.
This is why warranty deeds have “warranties” of you are getting good title.
While this is not ideal, divorce attorneys are generally resistant to using any other type of deed, and it should be fine as long as the deed is signed right at the end of the divorce case.
However, if you neglected to get the deed signed and years have gone by, it is best to get a warranty deed in case you need to clean up a problem with your title that your ex-spouse inadvertently caused.
Board-certified real estate lawyer Gary Singer writes about industry legal matters and the housing market. To ask him a question, email him at SunSentinel.com/askpro.