When you spend weeks or months struggling to get approved for a mortgage, it's easy to think that the mortgage is the document that determines home ownership. But your mortgage actually just determines who pays for your house. It's the deed that establishes ownership, and your spouse will still own your house unless you delete him from both the mortgage and the deed.
In most cases, you'll have to refinance your home to remove your spouse's name from the mortgage. This is because your lender offered you credit because of both of your scores, so if only your name will be on the mortgage, the terms might change. You'll have to apply for a refinancing loan to pay off your original mortgage, and this could take a couple of weeks or even a few months. Refinancing in your name only, however, won't change ownership by itself.
Although most mortgage lenders require you to refinance, in a few cases, your lender might be willing to delete your spouse's name from the mortgage. This usually happens in divorce cases where a court has ordered one spouse to either give the house to the other spouse or to pay for her share of the house and keep it. You'll have to contact your mortgage company and may have to provide documents showing that your spouse is OK with having his name removed or that a court has ordered the removal.
The deed is the document that determines who owns your house. Even if you've been paying the mortgage by yourself for years, if your spouse's name is on the deed, he has a right to the home. To remove his name from the deed, you'll usually have to file a quit claim deed, which is a document your spouse has to sign giving up his rights to the house.
Unless you're getting divorced, there aren't many good reasons to remove your spouse from your mortgage. If you can get a better rate refinancing on your own, however, it could be worth your while. Removing your spouse from the deed, however, doesn't offer him any benefits, so avoid this option unless you're splitting up.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.