When getting married, no one anticipates marital breakdown, and no one plans for it – yet with divorce rates at a record high of 42%, it seems wise to fully educate yourself on your financial options should you and your spouse decide to part.
Getting divorced or dissolving your civil partnership can be extremely stressful and traumatic for everyone involved, and despite the continued rising divorce rates, few understand what options are available to them when safeguarding their business, assets, and home during a divorce.
Here are some ways you can protect your home during divorce.
Understanding your rights
First, you must understand how your home is owned, and by whom.
If you own either the entirety of the property or a proportion of it, then you should be named on the title deed (a legal document) as the homeowner.
- If the home is owned jointly, by both you and your current or ex-partner, there are two potential outcomes you could face as a result of divorce.
- When purchasing a home or applying for a mortgage, there are different forms of joint ownership available to you, and depending on the agreement you entered into, your legal rights will differ.
- If you are a joint tenant, then you share equal ownership of the property with your partner and as a result, you have equal rights to keep or sell the property.
- Although this form of tenancy will protect your individual rights, if you were to die before severing the legal agreement between yourself and your spouse, then the property would be solely inherited by your partner, regardless of what your will or testament declares.
- If you’re a tenant in common, then your rights differ as you each own a share in the property as opposed to equal ownership. Unlike a joint tenancy agreement, your proportion of the property will not be automatically inherited by your spouse, and instead, you can choose to name any beneficiary.
- This particular type of agreement, therefore, protects both parties and their individual rights during divorce or the dissolution of a civil partnership.
- Alternatively, the property could be owned in your partner’s name alone, and therefore there are certain steps you must take in order to register your interest in protecting the property.
If your property is registered at the Land Registry for England and Wales, you can protect your rights to the property by using a ‘home rights notice’ or a ‘matrimonial home rights notice’. You can check if the home is registered with the Land Registry by filling in a HR1 form, which is free of charge.
If however, you find that the home owned by your partner is not registered in this particular way, there are other alternatives that help to protect your rights. By applying for a ‘class F land charge’ at the Land Registry, your interest and rights regarding the property will be protected and your partner will be unable to make any decisions regarding the mortgage or sale of the property without you first knowing – and it only costs £1.
Understanding how the home can be divided
There are a number of different possibilities that can unfold when dividing your home between yourself and your spouse. Whilst most of these options require communication and consent from both parties, some regarding the welfare of any children involved may be legally enforceable.
You may both choose to sell the property you share, divide the money, and purchase new houses separately. Alternatively, one party could by the other out.
Couples in England and Wales can apply for a ‘Mesher’ order which defers the sale of property up until a certain event, such as dependent children coming of age. The sale of a property can also be deferred through a ‘Martin’ order which gives one party the right to reside in the shared property for life or until remarriage.
Always remember to keep your mortgage lenders up-to-date, and notify them of any changes that could directly affect your repayment abilities.
It is important that no matter what your current relationship status, you always plan for the future, and taking the necessary precautions to protect yourself and your home could save you from even more stress and heartache during divorce.
If you are currently going through divorce proceedings, then you can quickly and easily change your ownership rights by writing to your partner and explaining that you are ‘severing the joint tenancy’, or you can fill out an SEV form if the property is registered with the Land Registry.