The Lindley Team at Mortgage Express |  503.517.8641

 Handling Joint Debt During Divorce

How you handle joint marital debt during the divorce can affect the ability to obtain future mortgage financing.

Contingent liabilities are debts that a court orders one party the responsibility of paying yet does not relinquish the legal obligation of paying the liability to the creditor. In a divorce situation, often times a mortgage cannot be refinanced and the marital home is not being sold. When the final divorce decree states that one party shall be responsible for making the mortgage payment, it is considered a court-ordered contingent liability that can be looked at in various ways when the non-responsible party is looking to obtain new mortgage financing.

Fannie Mae: As long as the final documents state who the responsible party shall be in the orders, the contingent liability will not be considered in the other party’s debt to income ratio.

Freddie Mac: As long as the non-responsible party has been removed from title/ownership, the contingent liability will not be considered in the debt to income ratio.

FHA: As long as it can be documented that the responsible party has made twelve (12) consecutive payments after the orders, the contingent liability will not be considered in the debt to income ratio for the other party.

However, there is another mortgage guideline that may throw a glitch into this mortgage planning.

What happens to the contingent liability when there has been a property settlement buyout other than refinancing the other spouse off of the current mortgage? Fannie Mae Guidelines state that “When a borrower’s interest in a property is bought out by another co-owner of the property, as often happens in a divorce settlement, but the lienholder/lender does not release the borrower from liability under the mortgage, the borrower has a contingent liability. If the lender obtains documentation to confirm  the transfer of title to the property, this liability does not have to be considered as part of the borrower’s recurring monthly obligations.”

Occasionally, one spouse may have the cash available to buy out the other party’s ownership of the marital home. Rather than refinancing the current mortgage to avoid unnecessary fees or higher interest rates, the spouses may agree to leave the current mortgage in place.

However, some spouses will not agree to take their name off of title because their name is still on the current mortgage. Keep in mind that if the equity is bought out in cash or some other form, the vacating spouse may need to come off of title to qualify for future mortgage financing.

It is always important to work with an experienced mortgage professional who specializes in working with divorcing clients. A Certified Divorce Lending Professional (CDLP) can help answer questions and provide excellent advice.

Are you or someone you know going through a divorce where property or mortgage is involved? Contact us today for a no-obligation consultation.503.517.8641 or

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