Handling the Family Home through Divorce & Separation.

Property Insights
August 31, 2023

Divorce and separation can be one of life's most challenging experiences, emotionally and financially. For many, the family home is a significant asset and a place of memories, emotions and aspirations. Getting through this delicate process can be tricky, but understanding the process and knowing your options can help.

Farrell Heyworth has put together five helpful points to make this process easier.

1. Understanding Your Legal Rights

First and foremost, consult a solicitor to understand your legal rights and entitlements. In the UK:

Matrimonial Home Rights: Both spouses can occupy the family home. Even if the house is not in your name, your spouse cannot force you out without a court order.

Equity Division: Generally, assets acquired during the marriage are considered joint. The starting point for the division of property is 50/50. However, it's sometimes a straight split; the court considers several factors like each party's needs and contributions.

2. Being Reasonable and Amicable

Open Communication: While emotions run high, remember that open dialogue can save everyone time and money. Use mediation if face-to-face discussions become too strained.

Consider the Children: If there are children involved, their well-being should be paramount. Their stability and emotional well-being might necessitate one party to stay in the family home, even temporarily.

3. Dealing with Mortgages

Transferring the Mortgage: If one party wishes to keep the home, they might need to buy out the other. This means taking on the existing mortgage or refinancing to secure a new one. A financial advisor or mortgage broker can guide you on affordability and potential options.

Joint Mortgage Complications: Remember, with a joint mortgage, both parties are responsible for repayments. If your ex-partner defaults, the lender can pursue you for the entire debt.

Releasing Equity: If neither party can maintain the home alone, consider selling it and dividing the proceeds or refinancing to release equity and split the money.

4. Exploring Alternatives

Sell and Split: Selling the home and dividing the proceeds is often the simplest solution. It provides closure and a fresh start for both parties.

Nesting: A newer concept where children remain in the family home while parents rotate in and out. This offers stability for children but requires a high level of cooperation.

Delaying the Sale: Some couples delay the sale, perhaps waiting for property values to rise or for children to finish school. In this arrangement, one party typically remains in the house, with an agreed-upon future sale date.

5. Coping Mechanisms

Seek Counselling: Therapists or counsellors can offer emotional coping strategies.

Maintain Financial Health: A sound financial plan can ease the transition. Consider reducing unnecessary expenses and creating an emergency fund.

Build a Support Network: Friends, family, and support groups can be invaluable during this challenging period.

Divorce is challenging, and the division of the family home, in particular, can be a complex, emotionally charged issue. However, with knowledge, expert advice, and an open heart, it's possible to navigate this transition in a manner that respects all involved and paves the way for new beginnings.

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