The divorce decree doesn’t take care of everything. You often need to take extra steps to protect your financial interests. This is particularly true when it comes to any real estate you own jointly with your former spouse. Even when the property is awarded to one partner, the other partner’s name remains on the deed. That means your ex is still a legal owner regardless of what the divorce decree says.
To get that partner’s name off the deed, you need to create a new deed, and the former spouse will need to sign it. You should take care of this as soon as possible to avoid problems later. Your ex will be legally obligated to sign a deed to relinquish their ownership interest, and usually the fastest way to do that is with a quitclaim deed.
However, a quitclaim deed only affects title. It does not affect obligations on the mortgage. If both spouse’s names are on the mortgage, they both remain legally obligated to pay that debt, even if the house is now titled in one name and the divorce decree says that spouse has responsibility for the house. The spouse who is relinquishing ownership interest in the property should protect their interests by getting their name off the mortgage.
This can be done by either refinancing the loan in the name of the sole owner or obtaining a release from the mortgage company. Many lenders will remove the non-owner’s name from the mortgage if they receive a copy of the quitclaim deed and the divorce decree.
Remember that once you have the new deed properly signed, you should submit it to the local land records office to be recorded, and keep a copy for your own records. A real estate attorney can manage the process for you and ensure that all requirements are met, but if you delay, it can be harder to get the signatures you need and you could open yourself to unnecessary liability.