Many times in divorce one of the spouses will keep the house. In all cases, the divorce decree should contain a legal description of the house and clearly divest one spouse of his or her community interest by giving that ownership interest to the spouse who will keep the home. But, once the decree is signed by the judge, the work is not done. Transfer of the divested spouse’s interest must be visible in the county’s real property records, otherwise the spouse owning the home may run into difficulty when it comes time to sell (i.e. a title company cannot verify the transfer when investigating the chain of title).
In general, making the transfer visible in the county’s real property records can be done in one of two ways. First, the divested spouse can be ordered in the decree to sign a Special Warranty Deed as “grantor” conveying his or her interest to the spouse keeping the home, the “grantee.” The deed is then recorded. Second, the decree itself can contain language that makes it a “muniment of title for all property awarded and transferred herein.” A “muniment” is merely a document that evidences title — the decree serves as the equivalent of a deed. The decree is then recorded in the county’s real property records.
What is the advantage of one over the other? Transferring title by Special Warranty Deed costs less to record since the deed is about 3 pages. It also keeps the other terms of the decree out of the public’s eye. Transferring title by the decree serving as a muniment of title gets the job done quickly when the other spouse is hostile and getting cooperation in signing a deed is uncertain at best.
Author Jim Cramp is a retired active duty colonel and principal attorney at the Cramp Law Firm. The Cramp Law Firm provides a spectrum of family-related legal services in the greater San Antonio Region.