Q. My ex-husband signed my name to a home equity loan during our two-year divorce proceedings, arranging for two separate balloon payments that equal $45,000. I have no idea where that money went, and I was out of the country when the papers were signed. We had agreed to sell the home and split the profits, but now that he took that loan, there would be no profit on the sale. Can I refuse to sell the house?
— Angry ex
A. Yikes. You may have to go after your ex to get what’s yours.
First, you should first look at your divorce agreement to see if this home equity loan is addressed.
Assuming it was not, and you did not know about the loan at the time of the divorce agreement, you will have to act.
“You should refuse to sell the residence and file an application with the court seeking that your ex-husband be solely responsible for this home equity line, and that he be required to pay this loan at closing from his assets — not the equity in the residence — so that you can obtain your 50 percent share of the profits as if this loan did not exist,” said Jennifer Fortunato, a family law attorney with Einhorn Harris in Denville.
Fortunato said you should ask the court to direct your ex-husband to place the funds to satisfy this loan in an escrow account prior to selling the residence so you have security that the funds will be available to pay the loan at closing.
When you file this application, she said, you need to explain that your ex-husband forged your name and you can provide proof that you were out of the country on the date that this forgery took place, she said.
“It is important to advise the court that your ex-husband obtained this loan during your divorce proceedings, not during your marriage, and that you did not know about the loan until just recently, after you signed your divorce agreement and were divorced,” she said. “Also advise the court that you did not receive any of these funds and you did not benefit from these funds in any manner.”
Fortunato said you can also file a criminal complaint against your ex-husband for forging your name, noting that you may also have recourse against the person who notarized your signature.
“You may also have a cause of action — a lawsuit — against the lender if the lender knew or should have known that your signature was forged,” Fortunato said. “For example, if a loan officer or representative of the lender notarized the forged signature, then the lender probably knew or should have known of the forgery.”
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