How to Remove a Name From a Joint Mortgage

My ex-spouse and I bought a house 4 years ago. I need to leave. How can I remove my name from the mortgage?

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Remove Name From Mortgage
Bill's Answer: Answered by Mark Cappel

Thank you for your question about ways to remove a name from an existing mortgage.

Refinancing is the Primary Method of Changing the Names on the Mortgage

The situation you describe is one faced by many divorcing couples, especially with the downturn in the housing market which has made refinancing much more difficult for many consumers. There are four options to remove liability for a co-signed or joint loan:

  1. Refinance the loan and not include a party in the refinance.
  2. Sell the property in question, which will extinguish the loan liability, unless there is deficiency balance.
  3. File for chapter 7 bankruptcy.
  4. Allow a strategic default. However, all parties on the loan will be responsible for any deficiency balance.

A quit-claim deed removes a party’s interest in the property by changing the name(s) on the title. However, executing a quit-claim deed does not eliminate a co-borrower's financial or legal liability for the loan. The property’s title is separate from any mortgage or deed in trust that encumbers the property.

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Reasons the Lender Does Not Want to Remove Someone from a Mortgage

Your lender is unlikely to remove your name from the loan voluntarily. Mortgage contracts are written to make it difficult or impossible for the parties to change the terms or conditions. Why? The mortgage originator estimated the risk for the loan based on, in the case of a joint mortgage, both borrowers’ credit scores, incomes, and debt-to-income ratios. With only one person responsible for the loan, the lender is in a riskier position.

The fact that you owe more on the home than it is worth makes it even less likely the lender would remove your name from the note, as the lack of equity increases the probability that you and your ex-spouse will default on the mortgage. Even though your ex-spouse may have every intention of keeping the loan current, the lender will want as many people as possible liable for the loan so that it has a higher chance of collecting on any deficiency balance that results in case of default and foreclosure.

Shop Around for a Loan

While your current lender may not be willing to refinance your loan, you may be able to find another bank willing to lend you the funds needed to refinance. Finding a loan in today’s market can be difficult, especially if your ex-spouse has had any credit problems in the past. His or her credit is what’s important since your spouse is the one who will be applying for the refinance loan. However, contact several lenders to discuss your situation and find out what options, if any, they offer.

It is unlikely you will find a lender willing to lend you more than the home is worth. Because you are upside-down on your current mortgage, you may need a large down payment available in order to obtain a refinance loan. In addition, you will need to compare the terms of your current loan with those of any refinance offered to make sure that the new terms are competitive with those of your previous loan. To learn more about refinance loans, I encourage you to visit the home refinance page.

Tough to Refinance

As I mentioned, finding an affordable refinance loan may be an uphill battle given the current state of the U.S. economy and housing market. Barring your current lender agreeing to voluntarily remove your name from your and your ex-spouse’s current loan, the best thing for you to do may be to leave your name on the mortgage for the time being. Once the housing market recovers from its current depressed state, your home’s value should increase, hopefully providing you with enough equity to refinance the home at a more favorable rate without the need of a large down payment.

If your ex-spouse makes the payments on time each month, having your name on the mortgage will improve your credit rating, allowing you to begin establishing your own credit accounts and thus building credit independent of your ex-spouse. If possible, have your ex-spouse keep records that prove he or she makes the mortgage payment alone. That way, you increase your chances of not having the mortgage payment counted as part of your monthly obligations when you go to qualify for a loan of your own.

There is no clear solution beyond a refinance loan, which may be out of reach at this point. Even if you are not able to remove you name from the loan, this mortgage should not cause you any problems as long as your ex-spouse continues making the monthly payments on time.

I hope this information helps you Find. Learn & Save.



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Comments (277)

Brittany M.
Strawberry Lodge, CA  |  April 07, 2014
I bought a house with my girlfriend in 2001 and around 2009 we broke up. Her name is on the deed I'm trying to get a promotion so I can refinance in my name so hers will come off. She's been bugging me this past month for her stuff. Like ceilings fans and things. My question is, does she have a right to anything after being gone for so long?
April 08, 2014
If you two can't reach an agreement on the fixtures in the house on your own, then try to convince the other co-owner that you two should consult with a mediator to decide how to split up the home's assets.
An O.
March 07, 2014
(Canada) My boyfriend got married 4 years ago in Mexico (So not legally married in Canada) and did not sign a pre nup. He bought a house and both their names are on the title. He caught her cheating on him after being 'married' for 3 years and she moved out. She did her own thing for a year and then went totally broke so told him she is moving back into the house. He does not want her there at all but she is legally allowed since they both own the home. She has not paid a single dime for anything, he pays the mortgage and all the bills. He doesn't want to sell his house but it seems like the only way to get rid of her is to sell the house and split the money. If he wants to get refinanced and get her off the title, does she have to agree? Or can he do it without her consent? She will not agree to anything, she is spiteful and wants to live there and live off him. Is there anything he can do to get her off the title or at least moved out of the house??? She is also emotionally abusive and she is driving him crazy. Would that help at all in getting her kicked out? Advice? He has paid a lot in lawyers and says there's nothing he can do. Is that true? Thanks for listening!
March 10, 2014
I'm not an expert on Canadian family law. If your boyfriend has "paid a lot in lawyers" he should have an excellent idea what steps he can take to resolve this situation.
Panda R.
Bar Nunn, WY  |  March 06, 2014
My ex boyfriend and I bought a home here in wyoming about 3 maybe 4 years ago. (127k) Things were not working to say the least and we ended up sperating. Originally I was told that if i signed the quick claim deed to remove my name off the home it would include the loan. I was wrong. He had lied and when I seen i was still legally and financially responsible for the loan part of the home I had asked him to remove my name. He kept telling me all these excuse til finally one came out that made since he would have to refinance. My problem is that now i have moved on and and married and my husband and I are wanting to buy a home but im still on the loan for my previous home. He wont refinance and keeps making up excuses as to why i have to wait. He's been late on payments but hasnt not paid to my knowledge... I dont want my credit hurting from this anymore and I am not sure what I can do myself to get this taken care of. Ive read he can buy me out but he is barely making it by as is and im not really sure how refinancing works to my favor if it hurts my credit (like he tells me) Either way im at a loss and pulling my hair out, any advice is appreciated.
March 10, 2014
Reread the original article above to understand your limited options. Consult with a bankruptcy lawyer to learn if bankruptcy is the least-worst action you can take to free yourself from this situation.
Ronald C.
Trumbull, CT  |  February 21, 2014
I am trying to get my ex-wife's name off of the 1st mortgage which is modified with CITI.I had a $70K drop in income in 2009 so I successfully applied for a HAMP Loan which started in April of 2010. I got divorced in Oct 2011. Even though I experienced a hardship I NEVER stopped paying my mortgage on time, or any other bill. Also, I have reduced my Credit Card Debt from $58K 6 yrs ago to $7K today. Hence, I have a current credit rating of about 780. My ex-wife did a quit claim at the divorce with the agreement that I get her name off the mortgage in 4 yrs - Oct 2015 - 19 mos from now or I have to sell the house, something I DONT WANT TO DO. I love my house & want to stay. The 1st mortgage with CITI is $192,765 & the Deferred Amount is $76,300 = $269,065 Total CITI Mortgage. I also have $84K in a Chase Heloc but her name is NOT on that loan so all I have to do is remove her from the CITI Amount of $269K. She NEVER contributed to the Mortgage & I have a 20 Yr 100% Perfect History of Paying EVERY BILL ON TIME. According to Eappraisal & Zillow I have $48-58K in Equity so I AM NOT under water but I do not have an 80-20 Equity split to refi. I have $5K in the bank & the last 2 yrs I've made $80K & $82K. Is there ANYTHING I can do to simply make CITI let me continue do what I'm doing? That is, pay my mortgage on time. I love my house, I can afford to pay for my house, I don't want to sell my house so can you tell me how to get her name off the mortgage in the next 19 months? Thanks
February 21, 2014
Ron, it sounds like you will have to look at a refinance that does not require 20% equity. I advise you speak with other lenders and see where you stand now. You need to find out whether there is any loan program you qualify for now, based on your credit score, credit history, debt-to-income ratio, and LTV. Maybe an FHA loan or high LTV conventional loan is an option, even if you need to pay for mortgage insurance. If property values are rising in your area, it may be worth waiting a bit, if your LTV affects your qualifying or the rate you will get.
Fred B.
Burbank, CA  |  December 11, 2013
I caught my ex with another man so she left our home. We have joint mortgage. The downpayment came from me & I was the one who paid the monthly mortgage ever since. She quitclaimed the deed. After leaving, my ex stayed at my other property who I solely owned while she was searching for a rental property to live in. I was selling my other property at the time. While living in my townhouse, she prevented the sales agents & potential buyers to visit my townhouse by stealing the key from my real estate agent’s lockbox located in the front door handle. This action prevented the sales opportunity of my townhouse. After my ex moved out, I discovered that the townhouse was damaged, vandalized & that other people whom I don’t know were living in it. It took me over two months to legally evict the slums. At that point, my townhouse was already at the verge of foreclosure. I was unable to save the townhouse from foreclosure. This foreclosure drastically affected my credit rating & my ability to refinance my primary home. Since then, my ex hired a lawyer demanding me to remove my ex from the mortgage. I have a son so I would like to keep my home. I have a stable job. My current Fico score is above 700. I have more than a year’s reserve in the bank. I could afford my mortgage. My home has equity. But my ex’s actions which affected the sale of my townhouse crippled my ability to refinance. What other options do I have? My ex's lawyer is threatening to force the sale of my home.
December 12, 2013
Consult with your divorce lawyer about your options. You may have a cause of action (a legal reason to file a lawsuit) against your soon-to-be-ex-spouse for her failing in her fiduciary duty to you regarding her townhouse behavior.
Bill W.
Birmingham, AL  |  December 09, 2013
I bought a home in 2002 with my girlfriend. She put down half of the down payment but didn't have good enough credit to sign. I am the only one on the mortgage. I put her on the deed a few years later with a quick claim deed, to be fair. We have since went our separate ways she left and I am having a hard time making the payments. I was told I can't do a loan modification after having made modified payments for 6 months, which were modified by the bank. The reason they say they won't do a loan modification now is because her name is on the deed. She will not sign off of course. She wants 10,000 dollars to release her name from the deed. She only invested 3,500 in the house total. I have lost value in the house since purchased to the point if I sold it I would only break even. Any advice on what I can do to be able to get this modification, or get her to sign off?
December 19, 2013
We don't have any stunning insights to offer. Consult with a lawyer who has loan modification experience in your state to learn if you have overlooked any options. Your ex-girlfriend's name on the title may be a significant complication, given her unreasonable demand for a $10,000 pay-off on a house that's barely above water. Talk to the lawyer about your liabilities should you strategically default, and any anti-deficiency laws in your state.
Allie T.
Island Trees, NY  |  December 08, 2013
My parents refinanced their home about 7 years ago. I refinanced with them since they needed my help. Now 7 yrs later I am running into an issue since I am looking to get married and by my own house. How can I remove myself from my parents current mortgage? Can I deed myself off and if I can am I still financial responsible? Thank you for your help.
December 09, 2013
Your parents would need to refinance on their own, to remove you from financial responsibility for the loan. It may be possible for you to qualify for a new mortgage and not have your parents' mortgage payment counted in your debt-to-income ratio, if you can prove that they have been paying the mortgage on their own, without your help. Different lenders will apply different standards on this issue, so be clear with any loan officer with whom you speak that this is an issue you want addressed up-front.
Sheryl J.
Falcon Heights, MN  |  November 10, 2013
I have been divorced for 3 years. I allowed my husband to keep the house, but unfortunately don't have language in the decree that stated that he needed to refinance to get my name off of the mortgage. I did quit claim the house to him, and there is language in the divorce decree that gives me indemnification if he defaults (standard) language. Anyway, I recently found out that he missed missed 4 house payments in a row which he did eventually pay, but have subsequently ticked my credit. Do I have any recourse?
November 11, 2013
Unfortunately, because you are still fully financially responsible for the payments, there is nothing you can do to remove the derogatory entries from your credit report. Your only recourse is related to the actions you can take against your ex for violating the divorce decree, if indeed his late payments violated the language therein.
Kel N.
Seattle, WA  |  October 10, 2013
I bought a condo with my Dad as a co-borrower 4 years ago. He is now 93 years old and not in great health. The executer of his estate has explained that I must remove his name from the loan as soon as possible because it will effect the estate and I could be forced to sell (something I don't want to do). I currently rent the place out and do not have any intentions on moving back into the place. I would qualify on my own now to have the mortgage soley in my name- but refinancing is near impossible because it's non-owner occupied, there is little to no equity because I bought high, and the condo association is involved in a lawsuit with the developers. Is there any possibility I can do a loan modification without a refi to have his name removed??? The loan is currently with Wells Fargo.
October 11, 2013
Consult with a lawyer who has probate experience to learn if the executor's statement is accurate. Perhaps I lack imagination, but if the balance of the loan is about the same as the market value of the condo and you're both concurrent owners, I don't see how the condo and its loan impacts the estate positively or negatively. Perhaps there's a tax issue the executor sees that I don't.

To answer your question, you are caught in a dilemma. Do not expect a loan modification without keeping the other co-signer on the loan. To refinance, you need to bring money to the table to lower your LTV, or wait for the property value to rise.
Kir T.
Manheim, PA  |  October 08, 2013
A post nuptial was signed 5 years stating that I get the house. Both names are still on the mortgage and deed. He is now in trouble with the IRS. Is a refinance under my own name smarter than a home equity loan under my own name? My home's appraised at $365,000 and there is $65,000 left on the mortgage. We have owned it for 16 years. Is there some other way to keep the IRS away from a lien on my home? We have filed taxes separately for 6 years. I have never missed a mortgage payment but my credit isn't great due to his IRS issues. Please advise!
October 09, 2013
Talk to a tax lawyer about these two ideas:
  • Your husband files a quit claim deed that puts the property title in your name alone.
  • You refinance the existing mortgage in your name alone. I do not see a legal difference between refinancing to a new mortgage in your name or you using a home equity loan in your name to pay-off the existing mortgage.

You indicated you reside in Pennsylvania, which uses common law rules in family law. (A minority of the US states use community property rules.) As such, I do not believe you have liability for your spouse's federal tax debt. I am curious to learn how your husband's IRS debt issues are spilling over onto your credit report. Does the IRS hold you responsible for some or all of your spouse's tax liability? The tax attorney you consult with will review your files, and answer this question for your circumstances.

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