Deciding who gets the house or property in your divorce isn’t the final step to achieving ownership. You’ll either need to make sure your divorce decree includes information specific to transferring title or draw up separate real estate documents that do so. Then the appropriate documents have to be filed with the County Clerk’s office in order to transfer title and have it on record.
District Clerk vs. County Clerk
In Texas, each county has a District Clerk and a County Clerk. In larger counties, these roles are usually held by two separate elected officials. In smaller counties, the same person might hold both roles.
The District Clerk maintains records related to family law cases, including the final divorce decree once filed, while the County Clerk’s office keeps official property records. Even in cases where the divorce decree details property transfer and the same person holds both clerk roles, you still need to separately file the real estate transfer with the County Clerk. Otherwise, any search of County Clerk records will turn up title information as it stood prior to the divorce.
Filing a Divorce Decree to Transfer Title
If your final divorce decree includes the appropriate information, a certified copy can be filed with the County Clerk’s office to transfer property title. The decree must at a minimum include:
- A full description of the property – a computer-aided design (CAD) might be sufficient if it includes the full legal description of the property, but many CADs do not, particularly those for platted land. It’s best to pull the latest deed of conveyance and use the legal property description from that in the divorce decree.
- Conveyance language – this language conveys that legal title for the property is transferring from one property owner to another.
- Divestiture language – this language notes that legal title of the property is being divested or given up by one party.
Before you decide to use your divorce decree to file for title transfer, consider filing fees. County Clerk offices generally charge for each page filed. Divorce decrees can be lengthy, and filing a certified copy can get costly. It might be more cost effective to obtain the deed and other real estate instruments, then file those instead.
Necessary Real Estate Documents
If you decide not to use your divorce decree for transferring property title, you’ll need to make sure you have these real estate documents, as applicable, ready to file with the County Clerk:
- Special warranty deed – this is the instrument that transfers legal title from one person to another.
- Special warranty deed with owelty lien – this real estate instrument transfers legal title from one person to another person and acknowledges an owelty lien on the property. An owelty lien allows couples to divide equity in the property and denotes how much is then owed to the non-owner spouse. The lien is paid off when the property is sold at some point in the future.
- Deed of trust to secure assumption – this real estate instrument authorizes a lien, by a mortgage company or bank, against the real estate and specifies the party assuming the underlying debt on the property. It is basically a promise that the spouse receiving the property will make mortgage payments in a timely fashion. It also often states that should the new owner not make payments, the former spouse can pay instead and require the property owner to reimburse them. A deed of trust to secure assumption is not the same as a deed to the property and does not transfer title.
Process for Filing
Your divorce attorney will usually take care of filing the appropriate documents with the County Clerk, but it’s a good idea to be aware of the process. The first step in the filing process is to obtain the specific address used for filing real property records in the county where the property is based. Most County Clerks’ offices have a website with details for filing a transfer of title to real estate, including the address.
The next step is to determine the filing fees. Most counties charge $26 for the first page and an additional $4 for each subsequent page. Counties do have some latitude in assessing fees, so costs may vary by county.
The third step is to create a package that includes:
- A cover letter outlining the enclosed documents which are to be filed;
- A check covering the cost of the filing fee;
- The original real estate instrument to be filed (make sure to keep copies, hard or scanned).
Finally, all documents and correspondence should be sent to the County Clerk via certified mail. Be sure to obtain a certified mail tracking number so you can ascertain when the Clerk has received your paperwork. Depending on the document being filed, the Clerk’s office may be willing to return originals if you include your address on the instrument and request that it be returned to you.
OUR DIVORCE ATTORNEYS CAN HELP
Divorce is challenging, but with Alexandra Geczi LLC, you are not alone. Our attorneys are here to help you discreetly navigate the process and protect your interests so that you can move forward into a bright, bold future. Contact us today at 214-974-4449.