Only a few weeks ago, there were articles in the press about a divorced helicopter pilot who, after losing his home in a £6 million divorce battle, reportedly barricaded himself into his house. After a court ordering him that he must sell the home or face a prison sentence, he surrounded it with barbed wire and supposedly threw stones at bailiffs.
Although not everyone would go to these lengths, many people going through a divorce will understand the feeling of desperation that comes with the threat of losing the family home.
But what can you do to protect it while the divorce goes through?
Is it owned by only one of you or is it owned jointly?
If the family home is owned by only your spouse and not you, you should be able to register your interest in the property. If your property is registered with the Land Registry in England and Wales, you can use a ‘home rights notice’ to do this. If your property isn’t registered, you’ll need to apply for a ‘class F land charge’ at the Land Registry.
Once you’ve done this, your spouse won’t be able to sell the property, or even get a larger mortgage on it, without you being notified.
It’s worth remembering that just because the house is in your spouse’s name and not yours, it will be still be part of the ‘pot’ of marital assets when it comes to negotiating your financial settlement. Your spouse cannot leave it out of the marital assets just because it is in their name only.
If the family home is owned by both you and your spouse as joint tenants – where you both own the property equally – you may want to change the ownership to tenants in common (where you both own a share), so that your share of the home isn’t automatically passed to your spouse if you die before your divorce is finalised.
Then, if you have a mortgage, you should tell your mortgage lender of your separation. If your name is on the mortgage, you’re liable for the whole of the debt – whether your spouses’ name is on there or not.
If you owned the property before you married your spouse and it is in your sole name, this could make a difference to your settlement. If this applies to you, you must get specialist legal advice.
Making sure your family home is protected is an important part of the divorce process. If you’re worried about your position it’s best to get expert legal advice as early on as possible.
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