Refinance of home must wait for divorce

Q: I am sole owner of a property. My husband signed a quit claim deed when I purchased this place. I am no longer on speaking terms with my husband and will be filing for divorce soon. My question is, can I refinance on my own? Does my husband have to sign the quitclaim deed again? I am sure he won’t. What are my options?

A: I’m sorry to hear that you are heading for a divorce. Unfortunately, your situation is not that unusual these days. But what complicates matters for you is that you want to refinance your mortgage while your spouse refuses to cooperate with you.

Many married people own property as their “sole and separate estate” and since Washington is a community property state, mortgage lenders want to make sure that the spouse who is not on title to the property has affirmatively agreed that they have no ownership interest in the property. That’s why lenders typically require the spouse who is not on title to sign a quitclaim deed and/or other documents at the close of any new mortgage on the property. They want to protect themselves from potential litigation by a spouse claiming that their community property rights in the property have been violated.

Even in good marriages, this can be a problem when one spouse either doesn’t want to sign the papers or the spouse who owns the property doesn’t want the non-owning spouse’s name to appear on any documents related to the property. This recently happened with clients at my mortgage company. The lender wanted the non-owning spouse to “acknowledge” (i.e. sign) the deed of trust, which is the security instrument that gives the lender the right to sell the property at a foreclosure auction if the borrower fails to make the monthly mortgage payments. The borrower did not want his wife’s name to appear on any loan documents at all, even though she would have no ownership interest in the property nor responsibility for the mortgage payments. The lender merely wanted the spouse to acknowledge that she was aware that her husband was refinancing the mortgage on the property. We had to get a real estate attorney to talk to the borrower to convince him that letting his wife sign a couple of documents required by the lender in no way jeopardized his separate ownership of the property.

So if we run into problems like that with couples who are still married, imagine how difficult it will be to get a non-owning spouse to sign loan documents when the marriage is falling apart. And with today’s very strict loan underwriting standards, I can virtually assure you that you won’t find a mortgage lender willing to refinance your mortgage without getting your husband to sign documents to acknowledge the loan and/or sign a quitclaim deed to give up any ownership interest in the property.

Therefore, I’m afraid that you will have to wait until your divorce is final to refinance your property in your name only because lenders face too much risk if they allow you to take out a new loan on the property without having your husband give up his potential community property interest.

Steve Tytler is a licensed real estate broker. You can email him at

Talk to us

> Give us your news tips.

> Send us a letter to the editor.

> More Herald contact information.

More in Business

A closing sign hangs above the entrance of the Big Lots at Evergreen and Madison on Monday, July 22, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Big Lots announces it will shutter Everett and Lynnwood stores

The Marysville store will remain open for now. The retailer reported declining sales in the first quarter of the year.

The Safeway store at 4128 Rucker Ave., on Wednesday, Nov. 29, 2023, in Everett, Washington. (Mike Henneke / The Herald)
Kroger and Albertsons plan to sell these 19 Snohomish County grocers

On Tuesday, the grocery chains released a list of stores included in a deal to avoid anti-competition concerns amid a planned merger.

Helion Energy CEO and co-founder David Kirtley talks to Governor Jay Inslee about Trenta, Helion's 6th fusion prototype, during a tour of their facility on Tuesday, July 9, 2024 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Inslee energized from visit to Everett fusion firms

Helion Energy and Zap Energy offered state officials a tour of their plants. Both are on a quest to generate carbon-free electricity from fusion.

Awards honor employers who promote workers with disabilities

Nominations are due July 31 for the awards from the Governor’s Committee on Disability Issues and Employment.

Bruce Hallenbeck, 4, picks out Honeycrisp apples for his family at Swans Trail Farms on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2022 in Snohomish, Washington. The farm is now closed for the season. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Study: Washington residents would pay more for homegrown goods

Local online shoppers are on the look out for the made in Washington label.

Aurora Echo, owner of Wildly Beloved Foods, begins making cavatelli pasta with one of her Bottene pasta machine on Thursday, June 27, 2024 in Clinton, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Whidbey artisanal pasta maker shares her secrets

For Aurora Echo of Wildly Beloved Foods in Clinton, “sharing food is so ancient; it feels so good.”

New Jersey auto group purchases Lynnwood Lexus dealership land

Holman, which owns Lexus of Seattle in Lynnwood, bought property on which the dealership resides.

Two couples walk along Hewitt Avenue around lunchtime on Wednesday, Oct. 19, 2022 in Lynnwood, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)
Everett businesses say it’s time the city had its own Chamber of Commerce

The state’s seventh-largest city hasn’t had a chamber since 2011. After 13 years, businesses are rallying for its return.

Students Mary Chapman, left, and Nano Portugal, right, work together with a fusion splicer and other equipment during a fiber optic technician training demonstration at Sno-Isle TECH Skills Center on Tuesday, May 28, 2024, in Everett, Washington. (Ryan Berry / The Herald)
Sno-Isle students on the path to becoming fiber professionals

The state will roll out $1.2 billion to close gaps in internet access. But not enough professionals are working to build the infrastructure.

Washingtonians lost $250M to scammers in 2023

Identity theft, imposter scams and phony online ads were the most common schemes, a new study says.

LETI founder and president Rosario Reyes, left, and LETI director of operations Thomas Laing III, right, pose for a photo at the former Paroba College in Everett, Washington on Saturday, June 1, 2024. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Woman brings Latino culture to business education in Snohomish County

Rosario Reyes spent the past 25 years helping other immigrants thrive. Now, she’s focused on sustaining her legacy.

Annie Crawley poses for a photo with her scuba gear at Brackett’s Landing near the Port of Edmonds on Saturday, Feb. 3, 2024 in Edmonds, Washington. (Annie Barker / The Herald)
Edmonds ocean activist to kids: Life is better under the sea

From clownfish to kelp, Annie Crawley has been teaching kids and adults about the ocean’s wonders for three decades.

Support local journalism

If you value local news, make a gift now to support the trusted journalism you get in The Daily Herald. Donations processed in this system are not tax deductible.