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During a divorce, a quitclaim deed can be used to divide up the marital property.

It's important, however, to understand exactly what a quitclaim will accomplish -- and what it doesn't. Otherwise, you may be in for an unfortunate shock down the line.

How is a quitclaim useful?

Most of the time, the two biggest things that a married couple holds title to are their vehicles and home.

During a divorce, a quitclaim deed allows you to quickly and easily change joint ownership into sole ownership through a change in the title. It isn't uncommon for more than one quitclaim deed to be used.

For example, imagine that you and your spouse own a house and a car -- both of which are titled in both of your names. You agree that your spouse will keep the home and you will keep the car. You would complete a quitclaim deed giving your spouse sole title to the home. In turn, your spouse would fill out one giving you sole title to the car.

What doesn't a quitclaim accomplish?

A change in title to a piece of real property equals a change in ownership -- but it doesn't affect your liability for any outstanding mortgage or loan on that property.

In other words, if you and your spouse still have a mortgage on the home and a loan on the car in both your names, the quitclaim won't affect those in any way. Once you sign the quitclaim on the home, you have no ownership and no ability to control what happens to it -- but you may still owe payments for it to the bank.

Keep in mind that banks won't particularly concern themselves with what's written into your divorce agreement. It makes sense that your spouse would have to assume the mortgage payments to keep the house -- but if your spouse stops paying, you're still on the hook.

You may want to insist that your spouse refinance the home without you before you agree to sign the quitclaim. If that's not possible, you may want to explore other options for an equitable split of the marital property instead.

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