How to Get the House in Your Name After a Divorce

If you want to keep your house after your divorce, you are taking on a big financial challenge! If you are like most Americans, your mortgage represents your largest monthly expense, and now instead of splitting it between two incomes, you’ll have to find a way to shoulder it all on your own.

Still, many women want to keep the house to maintain a stable environment for their children. Your house may also be in a school district you love, close to work, or close to friends and family.

If you have your heart set on keeping your house after a divorce, how exactly do you go about taking your husband off the mortgage and putting the house entirely into your ownership?

Get Your Spouse’s Approval

The very first thing you need to do in order to keep your house is to get your spouse’s approval. If you and your spouse purchased the house together after you were married, it is likely to be considered martial property. That means your spouse has some entitlement to it.

If you live in a community property state, your spouse will be entitled to half of the home’s value. That means that if your spouse doesn’t want you to keep the house, he can likely get a judge to force you to sell it so that he can get his share. You will need to negotiate with your spouse and convince him to give up his claim on the house.

Often, this will require you to buy your spouse out of his share of the equity.

Refinance the Home

If you can get your spouse’s approval to let you keep the house, you’ll want to remove him from your mortgage and title. You can do this by refinancing the home in your name only. A refinance can also allow you to pull money from the equity you’ve built in the house so that you can pay your spouse for his share.

Unfortunately, getting approved for a refinance can be very difficult for a newly single woman. You will have to prove to a bank that you have good enough credit and a strong enough income to afford the mortgage payments on your own.

Most couples purchase a home that is right at the level they can afford collectively with their combined incomes. You may be trying to stay in a home that was only really affordable for you as a couple, not you as a single person.

The bank may not grant you a refinance, or you may have to ask your parents or a family member or even your ex-spouse to co-sign. You may also face a higher interest rate if the banks perceive you as a bigger risk and/or if you take out so much equity that you have less than 20% equity in the home.

Keep the Mortgage You Have

If your heart is set on keeping your home but you cannot qualify for a refinance, one of the only options you have left is to keep the mortgage that you have. This is a risky move. You’ll need to convince your spouse to keep paying his half of the mortgage or find a way to buy him out of his share. If he does agree to keep paying the mortgage (perhaps to ensure his children get to stay in the home), you will be dependent on him.

What if he loses his job or gets remarried and wants to buy a home with his new wife? At any time, or for any reason he could stop making payments. If, as a result, you default on your mortgage, you could lose the house, and both of your credit scores will be tarnished!

If you qualify for alimony, you may be able to work out an agreement with your husband so that he makes his required alimony payments right to the mortgage company. This can add more reliability to the process, but won’t help you if your husband loses his job, retires, or if he decides one day that he wants to sell the house.

A Difficult Decision

Think long and hard before you decide that you definitely want to keep your house after divorce. As we have written about in the past, keeping the house may seem like a good idea at the time, but it could burden you with huge financial expenses that will make it very difficult for you to financially recover after your divorce.

It is worth it to see how keeping the house versus selling the house and moving to a lower cost option would affect your financial stability. Consider discussing your options with a financial adviser who specializes in divorce. You can find one at the next Second Saturday Workshop in your area.

19 thoughts on “How to Get the House in Your Name After a Divorce”

  1. Delaina Franklin

    If my husband moved out and I’ve maintained paying the mortgage for the last two years and I entitled to the amount I’ve paid on the mortgage when figuring out how much he will need to be bought out with?

    1. You’ll need to discuss this with an attorney familiar with the laws of your state. It is possible that the principal portion of your mortgage payments would be credited to you, but an attorney can tell you what the laws of your state provide.

  2. Question, I was divorced 10 yrs. Ago. A quick deed title was given to me. I was only able to make 4 payments, aft. This, I have been living here 10 yrs. Nobody foreclosed. Now I make payments to the county for back taxes. I don’t feel anymore the 3rd morgage co has stopped contacting me. I had to put a roof on it, and has ceiling damage. Once the county has it, many yrs now, am I still responsible for my exes mortgage. I think it may have been fraudulent, after we refinanced. Any ideas? Thank you

    1. If the house is foreclosed on, and the sales price of the home is not sufficient to meet the amount due on the mortgages, the borrowers on the mortgage may be held responsible for the deficiencies unless the mortgage said it was a non-recourse mortgage.

  3. I have been divorce for 7 years and my husband is still living in the house we finance together. How can I get my name off this house; so I can purchase my own home?

    1. You could quit claim the house to him by filing a quit claim deed with the courthouse. But if your name is on the mortgage and that’s what you want your name off of, then he’ll likely have to refinance the home into his name alone. Check with the lender to find out their requirements. But if your divorce decree says he is to get the house and make the payments and he has been doing so for more than a year, a mortgage company will usually disregard the fact that your name is still on the mortgage for the old house when qualifying you to buy a new home.

  4. I want to divorce , we bought the house after married but the house is on his name, he ask me if I want the house or everything inside house , what can I do ? I want to pay the house all the way off at one time but I don’t know how.

    1. You’ll need to find out what the laws of your state say about a home and the personal furnishings in it. In many states both spouses would have an interest in it even though it was acquired in just one name. If that is true where you live, you’ll need to figure out how you can compensate him for his share, and whether you can afford the payments. You say you want to pay off the house, so if you have the funds to do that, then mortgage payments won’t be a consideration for you.

    1. If he owned the house or a portion of it and he named you as beneficiary in his will, or the house was held in a title that provides for the survivor to receive it, then his portion will go to you. Otherwise, it will go to whomever he named in his will. Check with an attorney to find out what your state provides that might override this rule.

  5. Michelle Lynn DeVito

    What if my Dad have me the money for the down payment on the house?
    Plus we almost lost the house in 2008 and I was the one who saved it through keep your home California.
    Been in house for 18 years. Kids 14 and 3 still at home

  6. My ex-husband and I divorced in 2015, in the divorce I was awarded half the property, he still lives
    in the home with our grown boys 24 & 28, our names are on the title and now he wants to refinance for a lower payment, I want him to buy me out but cost wise he’s unable to do so, will it be in my best interest to sign the refi and stay on the property?

    1. If he cannot borrow enough to buy you out, and you don’t want to force a sale to get your money, then you’ll have to stay as owner of the property. Signing the refi papers don’t change your position one way or the other, it just lowers his payment.

  7. Sashakay Campbell

    Hello looking for some advice . Am going to file for divorce from my husband. We purchase our home in the marriage. But the problem is am not on the mortgage only him. At the time when we where purchasing the home my credit wasn’t good to be Eligible for loan. Would I be able to get the home since I have primary custody of the child.

    1. It probably won’t make a difference whether you are on the mortgage or not, since to buy him out you’d have to refinance anyway. So what is important is whether you can qualify for a loan. If not, then perhaps you and he can reach an agreement to hold the house jointly with you living there until your child is grown, and you be responsible for the costs of the mortgage, etc.

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