A few days before the final hearing date, my ex’s lawyer sent an email to my real estate agent informing her that my ex had a tax lien on the house for over $600,000 so the sale would not go through. That was it. No explanation for why this information was not brought forward to the court when it had been placed on the home six months earlier. His lawyer just emailed my realtor. No letter to the court. So, on the hearing date, his lawyer calmly told the judge about the lien. Not before, just right there in court. That day is like a murky nightmare but I distinctly remember the judge leaning over and saying to me, “Well, the IRS wins, you lose.” I was pro se by that time and I just stood there numb. My husband never was held in contempt for not re-financing me off of the mortgage. My name was now on a mortgage for over $850,000 that I was tied to until my ex-husband either paid off or paid off his tax lien of $600,000+. My credit would never recover. I was told that my only option was to declare bankruptcy. Unless I wanted to wait for him to pay off his huge tax lien and then somehow refinance. Meanwhile, I could not even get a credit card or bank loan or re-finance my own home. I remember sitting with my lawyer asking how I could possibly seek compensation for all of my court fees and financial ruin. I kid you not, my lawyer looked me in the eye and said, “For $25,000, I could finish this.” My jaw dropped. Finish what? My desire to live? I had been given no compensation for the financial and psychological trauma that I had endured because my ex forged my name instead of refinancing. All that I had trusted in the court system and the people that I had paid and put my faith in to just do their jobs, was now lost. I was now a victim of the family court system. To add insult to injury, my lawyer later sued me for fees. Update: my ex’s tax lien is now over one million dollars, he has gone into foreclosure for the fourth time, and he is declaring bankruptcy for the third time.
If I would have known that I should have insisted that all real estate ties between myself and my ex-husband before our divorce, I would have done so. I know that my example is one of the extreme ones. However, I tell it to make people aware of the cost of leaving unfinished financial items in a divorce. I should have been counseled to completely sever all ties with my ex-husband and secure my good credit for myself, my kids, and eventually my future job search. If you are on a mortgage with your ex-husband and they decide not to pay, your credit suffers, not your lawyer’s. Finish all real estate transactions before you divorce.
Colleen Honquest, Divorce Mediator and Certified Divorce Coach
Founder, DivorceMD, LLC.