Congratulations! It took some work, but you got the house after your divorce. Hopefully, you’ll spend many happy, healthy years there. But you run the risk of nightmares all homeowners may have (raccoons in the attic?), plus some that divorcees in particular face.
Surprise! You Have an Open Home Equity Loan!
Marital homes and mortgages are usually in both spouses’ names. The house may be in your spouse’s name only, but you’re taking over ownership. As part of transferring the home to you, you would refinance the mortgage or get a new one, so you’re the only one responsible for paying for it.
As part of the approval process, you may discover an unpaid home equity loan (HELOC) on the property. Your spouse may have taken it without your knowledge or forged your signature on the application. They didn’t disclose it during the divorce process, and your attorney may have used a quitclaim deed to change ownership, so no title search was done.
Home equity funds may be accessed by your ex-spouse through checks or a credit card, which may only need one signature. Contact the lender and cancel all credit lines if this is the case. Put the creditor on written notice that you’re not responsible for further debts. If you’re the victim of identity theft, you could file a police report.
Ending the Nightmare and Preventing Future Ones
Your house is the collateral for a loan your ex took out. From the lender’s perspective, your divorce doesn’t change the fact someone needs to pay the debt. Ideally, when confronted with the truth, they’ll have the resources to pay it off and take care of it, but that’s probably unlikely.
Call our office as soon as possible. We can discuss how to make this right. Your ex-spouse may have failed to disclose the loan or lied about it. Unless we can work this out with your ex, we need to go back to court and change the divorce agreement or order to reflect this newly discovered liability.
The amended order should spell out how your ex will resolve the issue. If they don’t have the money on hand to pay the debt, they could be required to sell or liquidate assets or property to clear it up.
This HELOC can be a big problem, but also a sign your ex may have left other financial landmines behind. We may review both parties’ finances again to ensure that’s not the case. If your ex owns their own business, that may be worth looking into because it can be used to hide assets.
If you’ve gotten nasty surprises after you thought your divorce was final, please contact us here at Karen A. Ulmer, P.C. We can discuss your options and how we can help you.