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posted: 8/31/2014 12:01 AM

Ex-wife can't sell home without former husband's signature

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Q. I got divorced about 15 years ago. My divorce agreement states my ex-husband is to receive 35 percent of the net proceeds from the sale of the house we owned. I have been making all the payments on the house but as far as I know, he is still on the title. I was supposed to sell the house when my oldest turned 18 but he was not around and I just stayed.

I haven't seen my ex in more than 10 years. He has had no contact with our children in that time. He also owes me more than $70,000 in child support. I have not attempted to collect it because 1), I have no idea where he is and 2), even if I did, it's worth the money to have him out of our lives.

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I am now planning on selling the house. I have spoken to a couple of attorneys and they both told me I will need my ex's signature on the closing documents.

So, I have two questions. One, how do I sell the house if I can't find my ex; and two, how can I use his share of the money from the sale to pay me the child support he owes me?

A. First, I would check with your divorce attorney to determine if your ex executed a quitclaim deed as part of the divorce settlement. When a property owned by divorcing parties is to be sold at a future date, attorneys often insist the non-occupying party execute a quitclaim deed to avoid the situation you now find yourself in. Often that deed is held by one of the attorneys if and until needed. I would also check with your real estate attorney to determine who, in fact, is in title to your property.

If the ex did not execute a quitclaim deed and he remains in title, your relief is to be found in the court that entered your divorce judgment. First, you will need to establish the exact amount of the child support arrearage. Once that occurs, you will petition your divorce judge for two things. One, you will ask that his share of the sales proceeds be used to pay your outstanding child support. And two, you will ask that the court execute sales documents on behalf of your ex. The court will require you to make a diligent effort to locate your ex prior to affording you this somewhat extraordinary relief.

I would suggest contacting your divorce counsel for further advice on how to proceed. Also, I probably would not list the house just yet. The proceedings outlined above could take awhile.

Q. My neighbor three doors down from me has the exact house I have but pays about $1,000 less in property tax than me. How can this be and what can I do to get my bill down to where his is?

A. There are a couple possible reasons his tax bill is less than yours. One reason would be that he enjoys exemptions that you don't, such as a senior, home improvement or homeowners exemption. He may be taking advantage of a senior freeze, which freezes any increase in the assessed valuation of his property from the date the freeze is initiated. There are other exemptions he may be taking advantage of that you don't.

If your exemptions are identical, the other logical reason would be that his assessed valuation is lower than yours. A lower assessed valuation would result in a lower tax bill.

If he will allow it, compare your two tax bills. In the event his assessed valuation is lower than yours, that may very well be the basis for a complaint to reduce your assessed valuation. These complaints generally must be filed within 30 days of the date assessed valuations for the current tax year are published. These valuations are starting to be published right now for the 2014 tax year, payable in 2015. Contact your township assessor to determine when the valuations were or will be published. Then either go to the assessor's website to learn how to file a complaint or contact a real estate attorney familiar with these proceedings.

• Send your questions to attorney Tom Resnick, 345 N. Quentin Road, Palatine, IL 60067, by email to tdr100@hotmail.com or call (847) 359-8983.

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