When couples decide to divorce, difficult questions inevitably arise: Who will pay for the house? Who gets the car? What to do with the boat? And when the time comes to divide the assets held in both spouses' names, divorce gets even more complicated. Using quitclaim deeds to divide property is often a part of divorce, but both parties need to understand that deeds and debt are two different things altogether.
What Is a Quitclaim Deed?
A quitclaim deed is a deed that transfers ownership of property from one person who has interest in the item to another person. The legal website NOLO notes that quitclaim deeds are used most often among family members, but it goes on to explain the use of quitclaim deeds in divorce: "a divorcing husband might quitclaim his interest in certain real estate to his former wife, officially giving up any legal interest he may have in the property."
What a Quitclaim Deed Includes
Signing over your interest in martial property is not as simple as signing a piece of paper that says "I give my wife the house." A quitclaim deed must include a detailed description of the property, often taken directly from the information on the original deed. Moreover, a quitclaim deed must explicitly detail which party is relinquishing interest in the property, and who is accepting the interest.
What a Quitclaim Deed Can Do in a Divorce
A quitclaim deed can allow a divorcing couple to divide their property voluntarily, without the need for a court-ordered transfer of property. Financial website Bankrate.com's Sheyna Steiner writes: "there is no reason to wait until the final divorce decree to start dividing the assets. You can do that on your own. You can use interspousal transfer deeds, moving things around and switching them out and make it as painless as possible."
However, before you begin signing away your rights to any and all property, it's best to discuss your intentions with a divorce attorney, who can advise you of your rights and your responsibilities.
What a Quitclaim Deed Cannot Do in a Divorce
Many divorcing couples make the mistake of assuming that because they have signed a quitclaim deed relinquishing their rights to property acquired in both spouses' names that they have also relinquished any responsibility for repayment of debt owed against the property. This is not the case. If you sign a quitclaim deed for a marital home on which you have a mortgage that is in your name as well as your spouse's, you are still responsible for that debt, regardless of whom the divorce decree says is responsible for the repayment.
- NOLO: Quitclaim Deed Definition
- Bankrate.com; Marriage, Divorce and Everything in Between; Sheyna Steiner; July 2009
- "Orlando Sentinel"; Quitclaim Deed Still Has Spouse on Loan; Robert Bruss,Tribune Media Services; November 1998
- HG.org. "Contracts 101—Warranty vs Quitclaim Deeds." Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.
- Realtor.com. "When Do You Need to Get a Quitclaim Deed?' Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.
- DivorceNet. "Interspousal Transfers Versus Quit Claim Deeds." Accessed Aug. 12, 2020.
- California State Board of Equalization. "Property Ownership and Deed Recording," Page 7. Accessed Aug. 13, 2020.
A writer and information professional, J.E. Cornett has a Bachelor of Arts in English from Lincoln Memorial University and a Master of Science in library and information science from the University of Kentucky. A former newspaper reporter with two Kentucky Press Association awards to her credit, she has over 10 years experience writing professionally.