A very nice woman who has been married for around ten years came to me recently for legal help. She came home one day to discover that her husband had hired a real estate agent and put up a for sale sign in the front yard. And he also told her to get out as he wanted a divorce.
She told him that she had the same right to be in the house as he did since she pays half the mortgage every month. It’s her house just as much as it is his. Sure he had the house when they got married, but he told her way back when that he was adding her to the title. The problem is that he never did it.
As a result, she basically has the same rights as a tenant. He can’t just throw her out, but he could have her evicted at some point. She might have been paying for the mortgage, but when the house sells, all of those proceeds are going to go to him and none are going to her. She has rights to stuff they bought during the marriage like couches, the TV, their bed, etc., but the actual house is all his.
Well I can assure you that she didn’t like my answer to her cry for help. But you can’t make up the law. She wanted to know how this could have happened and the simple answer is that she is really the one to blame.
The only way to have rights to a house is to be on the title. If you are told that you are going to be added to the title, you’ll have to sign some document at some point. If you don’t then it didn’t happen.
You can go to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds (or similar office for whatever county you are in) and look up who is on the title for free. If someone tells you that the house is yours and it’s true, you’ll find your name when you do a record search.
But without your name on the dotted line, you are in the same shoes as this poor woman, just a tenant who is paying rent to the person they are married to.
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