FAQ: Quit claim deed and retitling real estate after divorce

Are you getting divorced and want to change a deed from both spouses names to just one spouse’s name? If so, then you need something called a “quit claim deed.” We wrote this FAQ on quit claim to help you from falling into the trap of ineffective settlement agreements on bogus online services.

What is a quit claim deed?

A quit claim deed is a type of deed that allows a person to give up any actual or potential interest in real estate. It is essentially the reverse of what people think of when they normally think of a deed. For example, suppose a house has a deed that states that Spouse 1 and Spouse 2 are co-owners. If Spouse 1 is going to get the property after a divorce, then Spouse 2 can execute a quit claim deed that will give up Spouse’s 2’s interest so the house can be titled in Spouse 1’s name only.

A quit claim deed is just one of the ways to deal with a house in a divorce; it might be a good idea to consult a divorce lawyer to understand all your options.

Is a quit claim deed part of a divorce in Illinois?

A quit claim can be part of a divorce in Illinois, but at the same time, it is a totally separate process.

Here’s an example. Suppose two spouse are getting an uncontested divorce in Illinois. They might both own a house, and Spouse 1 might agree to give up his or her interest to Spouse 2.

The quit claim deed will be handled as follows:

  1. The marital settlement agreement (MSA): The parties’ marital settlement agreement (MSA) will require Spouse 1 to execute a quit claim deed which gives up Spouse 1’s interest in the house to Spouse 2. It will also require both spouses to cooperate in the quit claim process, including completing various related documents. However, although the MSA will require certain steps to be taken in regards to the quit claim deed, it is not itself a quit claim deed and the quit claim process is not actually completed by the divorce or the divorce court.
  2. The quit claim process: If the Parties’ MSA requires one spouse to quit claim a property to the other, the process for getting that done might look something like this: a) the quit claim deed and related documents are draft by a lawyer, b) the spouses sign the documents (some must be notarized), c) one of the spouse’s handle tax transfers stamps that might be required by the municipality in which the house is located, and d) one of the spouse’s visits the “recorder of deeds” for the county in which the house is located, pays a “recording fee,” and gets the quit claim deed recorded.

We represent clients for a flat fee in an uncontested divorce in Illinois. In such cases, the flat fee covers the divorce, and Step #1 above. However, handling the quit claim process (Step #1) would be a separate matter and a separate fee from the lawyer. Sometimes people needs a quit claim deed handled right after a divorce, and sometimes they want to wait a while. It just depends.

Can I remove my Ex from the deed?

A quit claim deed can be used to remove your former spouse from the deed to real estate, such as a house or condo. If you and your spouse settled your case with a marital settlement agreement (MSA), then the MSA should address the need for a quit claim deed. If your case went to trial, and the judge ruled on all issues, then the judgment for dissolution (aka “divorce decree”) should address whether one party must quit claim real estate to the other.

Can I get a quit claim deed online?

While you could get a quit claim form online, there are several reasons not to do so. It is best if an experienced lawyer drafts a quit claim deed, largely because there is much more to the quit claim process then one simple quit claim document. If you need a quit claim deed, you can contact us here.

  1. Errors on quit claim deed: If you use some random internet service to draft a quit claim deed, you will have no clue if you are doing to right. If you didn’t, you wouldn’t need to use the service. That’s just keeping it real. One common mistake is the people produce quit claim deed’s without a property’s legal description (a special description aside form the normal street address).
  2. Failure to get all required documents: To be properly utilized, a quit claim deed must be recorded with the “recorder of deeds” for the county in which the property is located. To record a quit claim deed in Illinois, the quit claim deed must be filed with other documents. I often run across clients who used a website to create a quit claim deed – but without the other required documents, it is of no use.

How much does it cost to record a quit claim deed?

Every county in Illinois has a “recorder of deeds” where official real estate records are kept. Each recorder of deeds charges different fees for recording documents. Often, they charge some flat fee (perhaps $75), plus a fee per page. If you want to know the exact recording fees associated with your quitclaim deed, you will need to know the exact number of pages involved. Then you can contact the recorder of deeds and find out what it will cost to record the quit claim deed.

Should I hire a lawyer to handle a quit claim deed?

It is a good idea to hire a lawyer for a quit claim deed. There a number of moving pieces to getting a quit claim deed recorded, and it can be very frustrating trying to navigate the process. Additionally, it is important to make sure things are done correct, with the goal of avoiding problems in the future.

How much does it cost to have a lawyer prepare a quit claim deed?

Most lawyers will charge under $1,000 to draft a quit claim deed, and the related documents. Keep in mind that while the lawyer might draft a quit claim deed, it will be the responsibility of one of the property owners to do the legwork to visit the municipality and the recording of deeds in order to process the necessary paperwork. When my office handles a quit claim deed, we provide detailed instructions and consultation to help the process go smoothly.

About the author: Contact Illinois family law attorney David Wolkowitz at 312-554-5433 or online. He is a family law and divorce attorney serving Chicago and the Counties of Cook, Champaign, DuPage, Kane, Kendall, Lake, McHenry, and Will. Areas of practice include divorce, uncontested divorce, child custody, visitation, spousal maintenance, child support, and the Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction & Enforcement Act (the “UCCJEA”).