Many couples simply want to know who gets the house in a divorce. And it’s no wonder. After all, property is frequently the main cause of friction between a couple who are separating. And the situation can get very ugly.
Feelings often run very high over the family home. And it’s important to make the right decisions.
Divorce is an emotional time for all
But this is easier said than done, with emotions so strong. If you can talk to your partner and agree over things like property you own jointly in an amicable matter, then that’s a good step forward.
An article in The Guardian newspaper looks at how couples handle divorce in modern relationships. This includes how many spouses are trying to avoid the “blame game” when they split-up these days.
Relationship experts Relate have also published some advice about how to manage separation and divorce, which can affect many areas of your life.
So, if you are going through a divorce or separation and can sit down and talk – and avoid going to court – it is probably much better.
What happens when lawyers get involved?
When it comes to the family home, several things can happen when a couple go their separate ways.
While the common viewpoint is that the man will lose out and the ex-wife will gain the most, the actual legal situation can be different.
Calculating who gets the house in a divorce
One specialist UK law firm points out that there is no fixed formula for how to divide property.
Usually, negotiations will start around 50/50. Once lawyers are involved, however, solicitors for each side will try to calculate who should receive what when the divorce goes through.
It may be that your share ends up as less than an equal one, and the equation will certainly include the family home (or its equivalent value).
If your divorce is decided in court, the courts will look to divide up property in a way that reflects the personal financial situations of everyone involved.
Courts can impose a Financial Remedy Order. And they base their decisions on several factors.
• Any children aged under 18 in the marriage. Welfare of these youngsters is the court’s top priority
• Each spouse (or party’s) income, their potential future earnings, property and any other financial assets
• Finances and assets that each spouse contributed during the marriage
What will happen to our family home?
Among the scenarios for a couple going through a divorce is that jointly owned property can go through a legal change.
Its title (ownership) can be transferred from the couple to one name only. This is common when one spouse chooses to buy the other out and keep the house or flat.
It is also a way of deciding affairs when young children are involved. It means the children can continue to live in the family home with one parent until they reach the age of 18, leave full-time education or decide themselves to move out.
Other alternatives include:
• Putting the house up for sale, and dividing the proceeds between the ex-couple
• You or your (ex) partner may put receiving the balance of funds until the property is sold, the children move out, or the partner remarries. Lawyers call this a Mesher Order. Here is more information on this.
• There are also Martin Orders, imposed by courts. This is where the court defers the sale of the house, and where one partner can occupy the property for life or until remarriage. Usually, this happens when there are no children involved in the divorce.
Protecting your divorce house rights
It’s important to look after yourself and protect your rights to any property you own or own jointly with your partner if you are going through a divorce.
This is even more vital if things have gone sour and you are finding it difficult to deal with your ex-partner.
Register your interest straight away to make sure the property won’t be sold or re-mortgaged without you first being informed.
If the family home is in both your names, consider changing the way it is owned. You can still own the house between you. But it makes sense to stop your ex-partner from automatically inheriting your share of the property if you died before the divorce or finalisation of the dissolution (or the other way around).
If your property is registered in England or Wales at the Land Registry, protect your position by checking with the Land Registry. Use a “matrimonial home rights notice” or “home rights notice”.
More information is available at the Money Advice Service, a free and impartial service.
Selling your house before or after divorce
It may make sense to sell your home quickly during a divorce or separation so both of you can move on with your lives.
A sale that drags on for months could add extra stress at a time of high emotion. If you are on good terms with your spouse, you can try to sell the home before the divorce is rubber-stamped.
You can find out a great deal more in our ultimate guide to selling a property due to divorce.
Working out who will get the house in a divorce can be a complex issue. Whilst employing the services of solicitors will almost always be necessary it’s best to try and reach an amicable agreement first. This will help save both time and a good deal of anxiety.
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