PERSONAL FINANCE: Answers to some legal, property questions following divorce

FROM THE OHIO STATE BAR ASSOCIATION

Q: My soon-to-be ex-wife and I jointly owned our house. Can I put the title into my name alone when we get divorced?

A: A deed identifies the title, or ownership interest, in your house. When people divorce or dissolve their marriage, usually the property is allocated to one party, or it is sold and the proceeds are divided. If you are the person who “receives” the property, then the title will be conveyed from joint ownership (you and your wife), to single ownership (you or your wife) through a quitclaim deed. You would file this transfer of property at the county recorder’s office (sometimes called a “fiscal office”). There are no tax implications related to this property transfer.

Q: I didn’t change my name at the time of the divorce but now I would like to. How can I do that?

A:  In Ohio, the probate court usually has primary jurisdiction over the changing of individual’s last names. However, in the case of divorce or dissolution, a person is allowed to go back to using a former name (and only a former name) during the divorce or dissolution process. If, as in your case, you didn’t change your name at the time of the final hearing, then you must file a petition for a name change with the appropriate probate court. If you file a petition for a name change after the divorce/dissolution process, then you are not limited to returning to a former name; you can use any name you choose.

Q: How do I get off the mortgage to my house?

A: Mortgage liability is completely separate and apart from the ownership interest in real estate. Conveying a property’s title can easily be completed through a quitclaim deed. Releasing a former spouse from a mortgage liability can only be done if that mortgage is satisfied. This means that the property must be sold and the balance of the mortgage paid from the proceeds, or one of the former spouses must refinance the mortgage. Refinancing a mortgage is another way of saying, “Pay-off that mortgage with this one!” Refinancing (just like acquiring any loan) usually requires a down-payment, collateral and monthly payments.

Q: My wife’s name is on the title to my car. How do I put the car back into my name alone once we’re divorced?

A: It is very simple to transfer a title to an automobile, boat, airplane, RV or ATV. If your wife agrees to transfer the title of the car into your name alone, she will simply “execute” (write and sign) a statement on the back of the original title saying that she is transferring her ownership interest in the car to you. Since you are the one receiving her ownership interest in the car, then it will be your responsibility to register the title with the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

Q: I’d like to protect my name and my privacy. Is there a way I can “seal” my records so that other people can’t see my divorce settlement?

A: Generally, civil courts in Ohio are open and public forums, so most proceedings and filings in a courthouse are available to the public. In rare circumstances, a person may ask that a portion or all of a case’s records be placed under “seal” and not be included as part of the public record. To make such a request, you must petition the domestic relations court, and state specifically why your case or file requires confidentiality. The court considers these requests on a case-by-case basis.

This “Law You Can Use” article was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Cleveland attorney Manav (Manu) H. Raj, Esq. of Rieth Antonelli & Raj. Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from an attorney.

© 2014 Metro Monthly. All rights reserved,

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