My ex has a home equity line of credit on my home. Now what? First step is to talk to your divorce lawyer before making any more real estate deals.
Q: I have a house that is paid off that I own in my name only. My soon to be ex-husband has an equity line that is in his name only, but is attached to my house.
We never touched that equity line until he moved out in February 2017. He started paying all of our bills through that equity line. He has borrowed almost $150,000 against the equity line.
What can I do to get this equity line removed from my house? Isn’t there something that is illegal about this? How can you have an equity line on a home you don’t own? Wouldn’t his name need to be attached to the property? We also have a home in Florida that we just sold (that was also in my name only). I haven’t signed the closing papers yet, and I don’t want to until this equity line is removed from the title to my house here.
Is there anything I can do? I feel like this is going to come back and bite me.
A: You’re right to feel that this situation will come back to bite you – it’s already biting you. If you’re going through a divorce, we have to assume that you have an attorney representing you. If you do, you must talk to the attorney immediately to determine what your rights are with regard to the property and the equity line of credit, and what his rights are.
While your question indicates that the equity line is in “his” name alone, unless he forged your signature, you would have had to sign those documents or your soon to be ex-husband wouldn’t have been able to get the loan. If you don’t remember signing the documents, you better do some research and find out how he got that loan, and who signed the papers.
Assuming you and he both signed the loan documents, we have to wonder why the loan would have been only in his name. You might need to call the lender and find out if you can close or freeze the credit line. Remember, he is draining the equity in the home to pay for all of his and your bills through the equity line. Was he supposed to pay cash out of his own pocket for those expenses?
Given your divorce, whether he uses joint cash or the equity in the home, both decrease the amount of money you and he have together. At issue is determining whether he has the obligation to pay for both of your expenses from the equity or other joint assets or he is supposed to pay for them out of his own pocket.
You and your divorce attorney should walk through what assets he has, what assets you have, what debts he has and what debts you have. Once you have that information, you need to have your lawyer tell you how joint expenses must be paid. If he has done something that he should not have done, your attorney might have to bring it up before the divorce court.
Also, even if some assets are owned by one spouse and not the other, during a divorce, the court may look at all assets owned by both spouses and determine that all of those assets are joint assets. In certain situations, if you brought an asset like a house to the marriage and used only your money to maintain that asset, that particular asset may be determined to be only yours. If your home and the home in Florida are in your name but were purchased while you were married and joint money was used to pay the expenses of those homes, those homes might be considered both yours and his even if the title is only in your name.
You’ll need to consult with your divorce attorney to get more information and determine what your rights are, how marital assets are determined in your state (and in Florida), and what your attorney believes you own that might be only yours for purposes of the divorce.
We hope things work out for you. Good luck.