What Happens If I Can’t Refinance After Divorce?

Divorce is a life-altering event that often involves the division of assets, liabilities, and financial obligations. Among the many financial decisions that must be made during divorce, refinancing the marital home is a common concern for couples that own a home. In some cases, one spouse may wish to retain ownership of the home, but what happens if they can’t refinance after divorce is finalized? This article will explore the potential scenarios and legal considerations that come into play when refinancing the marital home becomes challenging post-divorce.

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The Refinancing Process During Divorce

Before delving into what happens when refinancing doesn’t go as planned, it’s essential to understand the typical process during divorce:

  • Agreement: During the divorce proceedings, the divorcing couple often reaches an agreement regarding the marital home. One spouse may decide to keep the home, while the other agrees to transfer their ownership interest in exchange for financial compensation or other assets.
  • Mortgage Refinancing: To assume full ownership of the home, the spouse who wishes to keep it usually needs to refinance the existing mortgage in their name alone. This involves meeting the lender’s requirements, including demonstrating the ability to make mortgage payments independently.

Common Challenges in Refinancing

Several factors can make refinancing the marital home a challenging endeavor:

  • Credit and Financial History: If the spouse who wants to keep the home has a less-than-stellar credit history or financial struggles, they may have difficulty securing a new mortgage loan on their own.
  • Loan-to-Value Ratio: The home’s current value compared to the outstanding mortgage balance plays a crucial role in refinancing. If the home’s value has declined, the loan-to-value ratio may not meet the lender’s requirements.
  • Income and Debt Obligations: Lenders consider the applicant’s income and debt obligations when approving a new mortgage. If the spouse’s income is insufficient or their debt-to-income ratio is unfavorable, obtaining a loan can be problematic. In many states, the debt-to-income ratio needs to be below 43%.
  • Divorce-Related Expenses: The cost of divorce itself, along with any financial settlements or support payments, can affect a spouse’s ability to qualify for a new mortgage.

What Happens If I Can't Refinance After Divorce?

Legal Remedies When Refinancing Isn’t Feasible

If the spouse who wishes to keep the home cannot successfully refinance it after the divorce, several legal remedies and options may come into play:

  • Sell the Home: One option is to sell the marital home and divide the proceeds as agreed upon in the divorce settlement. This may be a practical solution when refinancing is not feasible due to financial constraints or other reasons.
  • Agree to Delay: In some cases, divorcing couples may agree to delay the refinancing process until certain conditions are met. This can include waiting until the housing market improves, the spouse’s financial situation stabilizes, or until other contingencies are satisfied.
  • Rent Out the Property: If selling or refinancing the home immediately is not possible, one spouse may choose to rent out the property to cover mortgage payments and other expenses until refinancing becomes feasible. This can be a quick way to make payments.
  • Explore Co-Ownership: Another option is to explore co-ownership arrangements where both spouses continue to own the property jointly for a specified period. This arrangement can provide time for the spouse seeking refinancing to improve their financial situation. To learn more about co-ownership check out “What Happens When You Divorce And You Own A Home Together?
  • Court Intervention: If one spouse is uncooperative or unwilling to negotiate, the court may need to intervene. The court can enforce the terms of the divorce settlement, including orders related to property division and refinancing. If one ignores these court orders, they can be found in contempt of court and face serious legal consequences such as fines or even jail time.

Seek Legal Counsel and Mediation

Dealing with the complexities of property division during divorce can be challenging, especially when refinancing is a significant issue. To navigate these situations successfully, it’s crucial to seek legal counsel and consider mediation:

  • Legal Counsel: Consult with an experienced divorce attorney who can help you understand your rights and options regarding the marital home. They can provide guidance on how to proceed if refinancing becomes problematic. You can also find many free forms online at your local county courthouse’s website that will help you get started.
  • Mediation: In many cases, mediation can be an effective way to resolve disputes related to property division and refinancing without resorting to costly and time-consuming court battles. A neutral mediator can help both parties find common ground and reach mutually beneficial solutions. To learn more about the benefits of divorce mediation check out 10 Benefits of Divorce Mediation.
  • Prenuptial Agreement: If you have a prenuptial agreement, it may contain a section regarding sale of the home. Depending on who bought the house and when, a prenuptial agreement may advise the parties of what to do when refinancing the home after divorce.

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Conclusion: What Happens If I Can’t Refinance After Divorce?

Refinancing the marital home after divorce is a common goal for many individuals who wish to retain ownership. However, various challenges can arise that make this process difficult. When refinancing isn’t feasible, it’s essential to explore alternative solutions, such as selling the home, co-ownership arrangements, or court intervention to enforce the terms of the divorce settlement. Seeking legal counsel and considering mediation can be invaluable in navigating these complex issues and ensuring a fair and equitable resolution post-divorce.


The Family Law attorneys at Koth Gregory & Nieminski understand that your family is the top priority, which is why we offer SAME-DAY APPOINTMENTS. If you need a divorce or other family law services, you can schedule your first meeting through our online appointment calendar. We look forward to meeting you.

Disclaimer: This article (What Happens If I Can’t Refinance After Divorce?) may contain information that is outdated as Illinois law continuously evolves. Meeting with an experienced family law attorney is the best way to ensure you are receiving the most current information answering the question What Happens If I Can’t Refinance After Divorce?

What Happens If I Can't Refinance After Divorce?

Published by Dustin Koth on July 11, 2024

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