Q: I had some issues with the title of a house when I was in a relationship with my ex-spouse. I was not married at the time we purchased the property, but since the plans were to get married, I added her to the title (she was not helping me with any kind of monetary help towards the property). Anyhow, things didn’t work out between us. She demanded that I pay her to quit claim the property back to me.

I went after her using my attorney and the courts. She finally just sent in the quit claim and this deed has also been recorded in the County’s Clerk office (after which they sent me the original Quit Claim document).

Is there anything I need to do beyond this to protect myself? Once the quit claim deed is recorded, does the recorders’ office make updates to the title of the property showing only my name? And if so, how long does it take for them to complete the update? Will they mail a copy of the new deed to me or is the filing notice all the paperwork I need?

I’m wondering if I can terminate my lawyer’s services or if I have to wait for any other updates.

A: You now know it was a mistake to retitle your condo before you were married. But once you got married, you still might not have had to change the title to the property because it was an asset you purchased prior to your marriage. You could have simply changed your will to reflect your wishes that your wife inherit it, should something have happened to you. Going forward, you should rethink how you will handle the same issue.

To your question: Once the quit claim deed has been recorded, the title to the property should effectively be in your name. Unlike car titles, you won’t get a document showing you holding title to the home.

You can go to the recorder of deeds office and check the records directly. At that office you will find a long chain of documents that will trace ownership of your home: from each seller to each buyer. In your case, when you purchased your home, you would see the document that transferred title from your seller to you. Among other documents, you would then find the deed that placed your ex-spouse on title.

You may even be able to access this information online, since many documents filed with the recorder of deeds office are now available to the public through the recorder of deeds website or any other office responsible for recording these documents.

Since you now have an ex-spouse I assume you were divorced. If you got divorced, you should be done with any legal issues relating to your ex-spouse. One issue that you could still have relates to any judgments or tax liens that may have affected your ex-spouse. The act of transferring title back to you by quit claim deed or other means would not terminate any third party creditor rights against the property.

If your ex-spouse had no liens against her, when she quit claimed the property back to you, you received all that she had. In that case, you most likely should be fine. If you need more information, you should talk to a real estate attorney.

March 13, 2009