By Colleen Honquest
I call this: “Real Estate 101: What Not to Do in a Divorce.” My family lawyer advised me to have our divorce decree state that my ex-husband would re-finance me off of the mortgage within three months after our divorce was finalized. This is often recommended by lawyers. However, I was not dealing with an ex-husband who behaved normally. I assumed that the court order meant that my ex-husband HAD to follow through and it would be no problem. It’s a court order, right? No. My ex-husband believed that the laws don’t really apply to him. Not only did the re-finance deadline come and go but my ex-husband proceeded to go into foreclosure, in the next year and a half, taking my good credit right with him. And then, this is where he got really creative, he decided to forge my name on a new mortgage for over $800,000. He did this over eighteen months after the refinance deadline date on the divorce decree. It took me three years to piece this all together and get it into criminal court. My ex-husband had found an unsuspecting notary who approved a mortgage loan document (with my forged signature) without me being there. She never asked for identification for me or that I be present for this bank loan document to be signed. One of my criminal attorneys later asked if I wanted to prosecute that notary public. We had a sworn statement from the notary that she let him forge my name on the mortgage. I chose not to go after her believing that she, too, was another victim of my ex’s criminal behavior. I gave her a pass. I knew her name and I could have had her prosecuted. I regret that now because her actions changed the trajectory of my financial well-being and my life and I truly believe that neither she, nor the lawyer for whom she worked at the time, have any idea how that one move devastated my life. I was making over six figures per year and I found myself not even being able to get a car loan or re-finance my own home. Because of that notary’s negligence, in addition to my ex’s criminal behavior, I spent eighteen months in criminal court and family court trying to get two judges to find my ex in contempt of court and charge him with bank forgery. Criminal court cost me over $40,000 and Family Court proceedings cost me $35,000. This all happened while I tried to keep my head above water in a very demanding career and raise three small children. The District Attorney eventually got involved and joined my legal team. Unfortunately, High Conflict people who have the financial resources can delay and pay expensive criminal lawyers to drag out their cases and file motion after motion. After eighteen months of court delays by the other side, the D.A. signed off on a misdemeanor charge of attempted forgery for my ex. Attempted forgery when we had a notary public who testified that my ex had forged the bank loan. I have to imagine that the D.A. had bigger fishes to fry?
Colleen Honquest, Divorce Mediator and Certified Divorce Coach
Founder, DivorceMD, LLC.