How to get my name off of a joint mortgage?
Question Details: My girlfriend and I bought a house together 13 years ago. We have since split up, I'm letting her stay in the house but she is responsible for paying the mortgage. In the meantime I'm getting ready to move on with my life and am curious if she has to buy me out of my half of the house. She is getting behind on the payments which is having a negative impact on my credit. does she have to buy me out to keep the house?
The only way to get off the mortgage is if she pays off the mortgage in full or refinances in her name only--and doing both of those things is voluntary on her part: you cannot compel her to refinance or pay the mortgage in full.
The mortgage is a contract among three parties: you, her, and the lender. When you took it out, you contractually obligated yourself to the mortgage regardless of your romantic, domestic, or living situation--that you split up, for example, is irrelevant to your obligations. To be removed from the mortage would require the consent of all parties to it, including the lender--and there is no reason why they would consent. Removing you from the mortgage not only does not help them, it actively hurts them, by reducing the number of people who have to pay them and who they could sue if not paid. So you will need her to voluntarily refinance with you, or else simply pay it off, if she can and wants to.
The fact is that you will remain obligated on the loan until she refinances it. You cannot simply get off of it because you are not still together. This is true even though she is paying late and your credit is being affected. Additionally, keeping you on the mortgage is to the bank's benefit since in the event of a default they can go after both your girlfriend and you. At this point, your only out would be to sell the house and pay the mortgage off. You can force a sale by employing the legal remedy of "partition". In such an action, when owners of property cannot agree as to ownership matters the court will order that the property be divided, if possible. If not (such as in the case of a single family house), it will instead order a "sale in lieu of partition". This means that the house will be put on the market for fair market value and when an offer is accepted and the sale completed, the proceeds will be equitably distributed to all of the owners. First, however, if any party wants to keep the property, they will be given the chance to buy out any other owner who wants to sell.