Here in Ohio, when you get a mortgage on your property, your spouse has to acknowledge the mortgage even if your spouse isn’t borrowing the money.
The rationale is, the house belongs to both of you. That’s called dower rights, in Ohio. If you own your house for forty years, and then you go to Vegas and marry a hooker, then that hooker suddenly owns half your house. Congratulations.
The idea is, you don’t get to secretly borrow money on your house. Back in the fifties or sixties, a guy would just go in and mortgage the house to the hilt right before divorcing his wife. That way, they’re splitting half of nothing, while he has the equity in cash.
These days if you try to do that, and the mortgage wasn’t acknowledged by your wife, then the mortgage isn’t valid. So your mortgage company and your title company are going to make you sign an affidavit stating that you aren’t presently married, otherwise your spouse has to be there and sign.
“No,” said the fifty-ish man in front of me, when we got to the marriage affidavit. “We don’t do that.”
I frowned at him. We were sitting at his kitchen table, and I had just asked him out loud as I showed him the affidavit, if he was married. “Wait a minute,” I said, because he was about to sign it. “Who’s ‘we?'”
He looked up as if startled. “Oh, my ex,” he replied, waving his hand at me. “We don’t do that.”
“I’m sorry,” I said for some reason. “You don’t do what?”
He blinked at me, so I added. “This is your ex-wife we’re talking about?”
He gave me the Boy’s Club nod – I knew how it was, didn’t I? He said, “Yeah, we haven’t been together in years.”
“Ah, I see. So you are divorced.”
“Well, we never filed for divorce really, but we’re separated.”
“Okay, but separated is married. You’re legally married if you aren’t divorced.”
I had to purse my lips and gather up some patience. “At one point, were the two of you legally married to each other?”
“And since you just said that you were never divorced, that means that you are still legally married.”
He squinted around the room, nodding, then arched his eyebrows. “Well, I guess so, but we haven’t been together in years.”
I could see that he felt like this was important, but it is actually not at all important as far as the State of Ohio is concerned. You can be married and then live on opposite sides of the world and blow up each other’s Facebook pages with insults every single day – the mortage isn’t valid unless you both sign.
Just like the State of Ohio wouldn’t care if you were deeply in love with the hooker from Vegas. It’s a pretty simple concept like being Male or On Fire. You’re either Married, or you’re not, and listen to me – you know which one it is.
So I explained to the man that regardless of the European nature of his relationship with his wife, regardless of exactly how married he considered himself to be, his wife was going to have to acknowledge the mortgage or he wasn’t refinancing his house. I don’t make the rules, I told him.
“I guess I could call her, she’d probably sign it.”
“You think she’d sign a mortgage if you called her out of the clear blue sky and asked her?” Not very professional of me, but that sounded pretty damn married to me.
“Oh, yeah,” he said. “I talked to her about it earlier today, but I didn’t think she’d need to sign it, since it’s just my loan.”
Hard not to frown at him, since that suggested that all of this had occurred to him already and he’d been trying to float it by. “Okay, well, you’re welcome to give her a call and see if she’s up for it. Does she live far?’
He looked puzzled. “She lives here.”
“Right here in town?”
“Right here in this house.”
“She lives right here in this house?”
“Oh, yeah. She’s across the street at her friend’s house.”
“I see. So you are not divorced from this woman, and she lives right here in this house with you, and you discussed this loan with her this morning, but you were about to sign an affidavit saying that you’re not married, based on your general lack of interest in each other?”
“You want me to call her?”
“Yes,” I agreed. “I do.” Something told me she was probably the one I should be talking to in the first place.
This must be how women feel, when they’re hanging around in a bar or a coffee shop and a dude starts chatting them up, and while he’s talking they run a quick Facebook check on him and determine that he is married, and for some reason he isn’t bringing it up.
Not nearly as flattering as I thought it’d be. I’m glad that doesn’t happen to me very often.