Q: My boyfriend is going to sell his house. We have lived together for 10 years. But his ex-wife of 13 years never signed a quit claim deed.

Now she is refusing to sign the sales contract. In the divorce decree she relinquished all rights and responsibilities to the house. What should he do?

A: It’s unfortunate that many couples forget to make sure they take care of changing the title of their real estate when they get divorced. It’s generally a simple process that requires one spouse to convey his or her interest in the property to the other. While a divorce decree tells the couple the final disposition of all of their marital assets, they need to go this extra step to make sure that the title to each piece of real estate ends up with the right person.

As in your boyfriend’s case, years may go by. In some cases, ex-spouses disappear. The records as shown in the recorder of deeds office will not change unless a deed transfers title from the ex-spouse to the person that’s going to keep the property.

Your boyfriend probably has three choices in deciding how to proceed in selling his home. The first choice is to plead with his ex-wife to sign the deed conveying title to him. The second is to motion the court in which the original divorce had been filed and have the court issue a judicial deed to him. The court, in effect, would convey the ex-spouse’s interest in the home to your boyfriend.

Finally, in some cases and in some states, your boyfriend may be able to address this issue with the title company that will insure title in the buyer’s name. While the first and second options are the most preferable and you should proceed along those paths, as a last resort, your boyfriend may have this final option with the title company.

The title company would have to review the original divorce judgment and make a decision as to whether they would be willing to insure the title that would be conveyed to your prospective buyer. And, your boyfriend may have to pay extra for this service.

Finally, keep in mind that this option may not be available everywhere and may cost more than having the court issue a deed to your boyfriend.

July 21, 2006.