Can I sell my house to my wife?

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Can I sell my house to my wife?

I was divorced 6 years ago. I remarried and bought my ex-wife out of the house 4 years ago. The mortgage and HELOC are 70% of the home’s value. The property settlement with my ex-wife states her name is to be removed from the HELOC and then she will remove her name from the deed. The problem is that I lost my job 3 years ago; I am working but at 30% of previous salary. My credit is awful and no bank will look at refinancing anything with my name on it. My wife, not my ex-wife, earns 150K a year and has a credit score in the 700’s. I’m looking for the best way to redo my loans and remove my exwife from the deed. Can/should I sell the house to my wife?

Asked on September 2, 2019 under Real Estate Law, Pennsylvania

Answers:

SJZ, Member, New York Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 1 year ago | Contributor

If your ex-wife's name is on the deed, you can't sell the house without her consent or agreement, or without bringing a kind of legal action traditionally called an action "for partition" (it is possible your state has a different name for it) to get a court order mandating the sale. Real estate can only be sold with the consent of all owners (and being on the deed means she's an owner) or by way of a court order. The action for partition--a court-required sale--is the law's recourse for when the owners of property cannot agree as to what to do with it: the property will be sold; the costs of sale and and mortgages and HELOCs paid from the proceeds of the sale; then any remaining proceeds will be distributed among the owners. However, since litigation can be expensive, you are better off trying to work this out voluntarily with your ex--if she agrees to the sale to your current wife, you can clearly do this.
Bear in mind that since you are not compliance with the divorce's property settlement (you have not paid off the HELOC to remove your ex), you cannot seek to have her remove her name from the deed as per the settlement: she only needs to remove her name when the HELOC is paid.


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