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When one spouse is awarded the marital residence in a divorce, it is important to ensure that the Divorce Decree specifies the transfer of ownership to the one party. But what if the settlement documents are vague and the other party will not sign the deed over?

Ideally, deeds and other documents transferring property from one spouse to the other should be signed at the time all other settlement documents are signed. However, if this did not occur, and later your spouse refuses to sign such a document, there are a number of remedies available.

Available Options

Most decrees contain language ordering each party to “execute any and all documents necessary” to transfer property as ordered in the Decree. If this language exists in your Decree, you should remind your spouse they are under a court order to sign the deed you have given them. Most people don’t want to be taken to court for refusing to abide by a court order, so this should be a reasonable incentive.

A simpler solution exists, however, if your Decree contains language indicating the Decree itself is deemed to be a “sufficient deed, conveyance, assignment, or transfer” of the property allocated therein. In such a case, and if your Decree contains a legal description of the property at issue, you can record a certified copy of your Decree at the County Recorder’s office. Such a recording will transfer title to you and has the same effect as if your spouse had signed the deed.

On a separate note, this can also potentially apply to the transfer of vehicle property with the Motor Vehicle Division accepting a certified Decree as a valid transfer of title when the vehicle’s VIN appears in the Decree.

If your Decree does not contain sufficient language to be recorded, you have the option of petitioning the court for an order divesting your former spouse of ownership rights in the property at issue. The Arizona Rules of Family Law Procedure specifically allow for such an order, and recording the order operates as a legal transfer of ownership in the property.

When creating a Divorce Decree, you want to make sure it includes the appropriate language to protect the rights of both parties. At Hallier Lawrence, we focus exclusively on family law and are familiar with drafting language to accomplish your goals.

Contact us for more information on how we can help.