Legal Question in Family Law in Maryland

Property Settlement

In a divorce decree 4 years ago the husband was awarded the family house. The deed to the house and the house loan both had the husband and wife's name on it. The decree stipulated that the husband had to remove the wife's name from the deed and loan within 3 months. The wife signed a ducument giving her permission to have this done. The husband did not follow through and remove her name. Four years have now passed. Questions: Can the husband sell the house with the wife's name still on the deed, even though he breeched the contract establised in the divorce decree by not removing her name within 3 months or, must he obtain a current signature from the wife to transfer the deed if the property is sold?

Asked on 8/25/03, 11:39 pm

2 Answers from Attorneys

Robert Sher Wagshal and Sher

Re: Property Settlement

In all likelihood the ex husband will have to re-obtain the ex-wife's signature on a deed vesting title to the property in him in order to be able to sell it. The wife is still an owner of record and therefore she has to convey her legal interest to either the co-owner or a third party purchaser in order to convey clear title. If the wife received consideration for her interest as part of the marital settlement agreement, she is legally obligated to sign over her interest now even though the three month period has expired. That period was to protect the wife by getting her name off the mortgage so she could have a clear credit record. Unless she's been damaged by the husband's failure to take prompt action, she cannot now refuse to sign the necessary papers.

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Answered on 8/26/03, 10:28 am
G. Joseph Holthaus III Law Offices of G. Joseph Holthaus

Re: Property Settlement

It is not clear which side of this putative matter you represent. Your question is presented as if you are a third party or casual on-looker. Please read carefully.

Legal Fact: Unfettered title to the house will not pass free of encumbrance unless there is a release of the ex-wife assuming that she still retains an interest in title.

Legal Fact: A contact for sale may occur and be consummated with performance remaining from the deficient contractual party.

Depending on which of these legal facts applies (or others), the legal costs to resolve this matter could be significant. Your question indicates that the estranged ex-wife executed a document to effect a division of marital property. The sufficiency of this document is at issue as well as the ability of husband to effect the same.

The better option is to obtain the assistance of an attorney before a contract for the sale of the property is finalized and to correct the deficiency of title. Anything short of this is tempting major legal contest that may ultimately bring considerable costs. Contact an attorney.

G. Joseph Holthaus

(410) 799-9002

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Answered on 8/26/03, 10:13 pm

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