What is my liability regarding a house that I’m the owner but that was awarded to my ex-wife in our divorce settlement last year?

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What is my liability regarding a house that I’m the owner but that was awarded to my ex-wife in our divorce settlement last year?

My ex-wife is not listed as an owner on the title but she is listed on the mortgage. Because of the extensive damage the house sustained in the flood disaster lst year, we have not attempted to transfer the house to my ex-wife as owner. She has worked with 2 contractors, one last year to upgrade the house, and the other since for the last 3 months to repair damage to the house. I did not sign the contracts in either case, only my wife signed the contracts with the contractors. I refused because the contracts were signed before money, in the first case from FEMA and in the second from the SBA, was in hand. I need to know what my financial liability is with the contractors in case my ex-wife does not have the money to pay them.

Asked on October 10, 2012 under Bankruptcy Law, North Dakota

Answers:

B.H.F., Member, Texas State Bar / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

If the house was awarded to your wife last year, then you are no longer the owner-- the title paperwork just hasn't caught up with that yet.  She is liable for any debt that she incurs after you were divorced.  So any repairs that she negotiated for would be her responsibility.  However, if she does not pay, be prepared to be served with notice of the suit because the title paperwork has not been filed.  You will have a defense to the suit being the divorce decree and that your name was no where on the service agreements.  You really need to get this house out of your name to avoid any confusion in the future.

Just as an FYI, if your name is still on the mortgage, you may still be liable for that debt if she defaults.  Many people assume that because the other spouse is awarded the house and the mortgage, that they are off the hook going forward.  The mortgage company was not a party to the divorce and is therefore not bound by it and can still pursue both parties.  If the mortgage company came after you, then you could file a motion to enforce in the divorce to require her to pay the mortgage-- but until she did so, the mortgage company would still pursue you for any delinquencies.

FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney / FreeAdvice Contributing Attorney

Answered 9 years ago | Contributor

So long as you are on legal title to the home that you have written about where there is a court order that you are to transfer title to it to your "ex", you technically would not be legally obligated to the contractors for any work of improvement that they may do on it so long as you do not sign any contract with them.

However, these contractors per statute could pre-lien the home and record a mechanic's lien on it for payment. I suggest that you consult with a family law attorney about the possibility of transferring legal title to the home over to your "ex" per the court order that you have written about. Now may be the time to do so.


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