Do I Have to Pay the Mortgage While My Wife and I Are Separated?

Unless you purchase a business, boat or other big-ticket item during the course of your life, your mortgage will be the largest discrete obligation for which you're likely to be responsible. As such, it's important that you treat it with the respect that it deserves. Failure to make your mortgage payments in a timely fashion can seriously disrupt your credit rating and may deal a substantial setback to your financial profile. In the worst-case scenario, your failure to pay your mortgage on time could result in a foreclosure that forces your home's current occupants to find alternate lodging.

Until your divorce has been set in stone, you should continue to pay your mortgage. Once you and your spouse are legally divorced, one of you will assume possession of the house. At that point, the ex-spouse who still owns the house will be responsible for shouldering the full cost of its mortgage. If this represents an undue financial burden, this person will need to sell the house and find another place to live.

If you're the only borrower listed in the official mortgage documents, you'll have no choice but to continue making payments on it. If you miss two or three consecutive payments, your lender is likely to foreclose on your house. When this happens, you'll receive a significant blemish on your credit rating and may be unable to procure a new mortgage loan for several years. In the meantime, your depressed credit rating may prevent you from finding a suitable place to live on a temporary basis.

To avoid this unpleasant outcome, you'll need to expedite your divorce proceedings or come to an arrangement with your spouse. If you're living apart without being legally separated, you should secure this designation from a family court before proceeding. A legal separation designation is likely to make it easier for you to enter into binding financial agreements with your estranged spouse. Once you're officially divorced, these agreements will become permanent.

If you and your spouse are both listed on the mortgage, you'll need to ensure that she continues to make her portion of the payments on it. If she fails to do so, you'll need to compensate by paying more than your agreed-upon share. Without such an adjustment, your lender will foreclose on the house. In order to enter into any binding payment agreements, you'll need to convince a judge to sign off on your written proposal at an official hearing.

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