My mother is in the process of getting a divorce. The man that she is divorcing still owes a lot of money due to his late wife’s medical bills. He and my mother have a mortgage on a house. He was afraid that they could take the house away because of the money owed, so he signed a quit claim deed over to my mother and myself. Who does the house legally belong to, and what rights does he have regarding the house?
Exactly who the house belongs to and how it will be allocated in the property division depends on many details, and the laws in Illinois, if that is where the divorce is taking place and where the home is located. I do not practice in Illinois, so I can only speak in generalities.
The first analysis is whether the house is marital property. Even though it is no longer titled to her husband, he may still have a marital interest in the property. It is similar to a business that is owned by only one spouse – it may still be marital property, and it must be allocated in a divorce. Exactly what their intentions were when they changed the title and what documents they signed all must be closely examined. At one time he owned the home jointly with your mother, so at some point he had a marital interest. He may not have surrendered that interest even though the title changed.
At the time of a divorce, the court presumes that the all marital property will be split equally. However, the court may deviate from this presumption for many reasons. A common reason to deviate from that equal division presumption is consideration of the property brought into the marriage by each party. The debts that he brought in, and if they are still making claims, will also need to be dealt with. A similar analysis will need to be completed about whether these debts are solely his and not marital property.
Your mother should contact a domestic litigation attorney licensed in Illinois immediately to explore her options. Cordell & Cordell has attorneys that are licensed and located in Illinois, and they would be happy to discuss her case with you.
Angela Foy is an Associate Attorney in the Milwaukee, Wisc., office of Cordell & Cordell P.C. where her primary practice is exclusively in the area of domestic relations. Ms. Foy is licensed to practice in the state of Wisconsin, the U.S. District Court, and the Eastern District of Wisconsin. Ms. Foy received her Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees from the University of Notre Dame. She then continued on to receive her Juris Doctor from Marquette University.