Q: I got married two years ago, and my wife received a contract on the home she purchased four years ago.
We were told by the real estate attorney helping us on the sale that her ex-husband’s attorney filed a lien on the home three years ago. They have been divorced for eight years and he took her back to court for child support and other issues three years ago. He lost and didn’t pay his attorney. His attorney put a lien against my wife’s house, which she bought after her divorce was finalized.
We are being told now that we can’t sell the house until after we satisfy the lien. Please help us know what we should do we are closing soon.
A: While we don’t know the details of the divorce and settlement, it seems that you’re represented by a real estate attorney in the sale of the home. You should really consult with him or her on this issue.
In some cases, divorce settlement agreements might provide that one spouse or the other pay for the attorney’s fees of the other party. In other cases, state laws may allow for an attorney to collect from either spouse the expenses from the case.
Since it’s unclear from your letter why your wife might have some responsibility to pay for her ex-husband’s attorney’s fees related to the divorce, you might be able to work with the title company to hold back funds from the sale to satisfy the debt to the attorney should your wife be deemed to be liable for it down the road.
You should also contact the divorce attorney who assisted your wife as she went through those court proceedings to determine whether the other attorney had any right to lien your wife’s home. If he did have the right to attach a lien, you might need to pay up. If he didn’t, in some limited circumstances, you may have an action against the attorney for placing the lien on the home. You would need to explore this issue further with your attorney.