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Q. My husband and I are getting divorced, and I want to keep our condo. But what happens to our mortgage, which is in both of our names? What steps do I need to take to transfer it?
A. The breakup of a marriage is never easy, and neither is taking custody of the mortgage. In this case, your main hurdle is that the bank made the loan based on your combined qualifications—two incomes, two credit scores, and so on—and transferring the loan to a single borrower will, in all likelihood, require qualifying on your own to refinance the mortgage, our experts say.
Your first step should simply be to ask the bank—in writing, says real estate attorney Jeffrey Reich of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz—to remove your ex-husband’s name from the mortgage, experts say.
But beware that your bank might not agree to simply let your ex-husband off the documents. “Brace [yourself] for the bank to respond and to state that they want the husband to remain a party to the note and mortgage,” Reich says.
In that case, you’ll have to refinance the mortgage with your current bank or another lender. (If your interest rate is higher than current rates, says real estate lawyer Sam Himmelstein, you may want to look into refinancing with another lender anyway.)
“You will have to provide all the documentation as if you were applying for the loan for the first time and you individually would have to qualify for the mortgage based on your individual income,” notes Robbie Gendels, a senior loan officer in the New York City office of National Cooperative Bank. “It is not complicated—you just have to have the income to support the loan payments.”
In the event that you don't, the question of condo ownership "will have to be dealt with in the separation agreement," Himmelstein says. "If the parties cannot agree, the judge will decide what happens to the apartment in the divorce decree."
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