Buying a home is said to be one of life’s most stressful experiences, but for many who need to know how to sell a house during a divorce, then this situation is probably more so.
There’s no doubt that among the emotional upheaval, deciding what to do with a house you have bought with your spouse can become complicated.
And this may be the case for many couples since around half of all marriages in the UK, according to government figures, will end in divorce. Knowing your property and asset rights will be crucial in what can be a difficult time.
If you are struggling to reach a compromise or agreement with your partner, then you’ll need to find professional legal advice because in most situations, the house will be the couple’s most expensive asset that will need to be divided.
There is one big issue that needs to be appreciated – regardless of what will happen to the home – and it is the fact it needs to be valued for the divorce settlement.
If the two parties cannot agree on the value, then the court will order a surveyor and local estate agent to offer a figure that will be used for any divorce settlement.
The 3 main options open to couples divorcing
Essentially, the most common routes for those who are looking to sell a house during a divorce will mean transferring or dividing ownership of their property. These include:
Both partners deciding to move out and sell the property
While there may be lots of happy memories in the house, both of the partners moving out may be the only financially suitable option for them. This can be a huge emotional and upsetting move, but necessary.
Deciding to sell up later
There may be circumstances that dictate the couple not choosing to sell up immediately and waiting, for example, until the youngest child reaches the age of 18. Until then, it may mean that one partner moves out but they will retain their stake in the family home.
Buying the other partner out
Should there be money to do so, a viable option is to buy the other partner out of their share in the property. This means that the house ownership will be transferred into one name.
Divorcing when you have a joint mortgage
There are also other issues when it comes to selling the house during a divorce, and one of the issues is over your joint mortgage.
The issue to consider here is that even after divorce the two former partners may be financially tied to the property and to each other if they have any joint financial products and also if they have a mortgage.
It’s important that when someone moves out that the mortgage repayments are maintained since not doing so will damage both partner’s credit scores and also restrict their chances of obtaining a mortgage in the future.
The other serious aspect is if one party decides they are no longer going to pay the mortgage, for whatever reason, and this could lead to the home being repossessed.
This also means that you should tell your mortgage lender immediately about your change in circumstances so that they and you are prepared for this situation.
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Common questions when selling a home during a divorce
There may be other questions you have about selling a home during a divorce and these may include:
Can I sell my house before divorce?
If you both agree to sell the house before divorce then you will create, hopefully, a nice cash pay-out for you both to begin a new life with.
Also, divorces are not always easy and selling the house before divorce may remove some of the financial burden when it comes to getting back on your feet post-divorce.
Another reason to sell before divorce is that it is an effective way to move on from a marriage and let go of past memories.
However, it’s important before selling that both partners agree on the terms and how any equity will be split, so there’s no need to haggle over who gets a larger or equal share.
The downside to selling before you divorce is you are relying on unpredictable property markets, so you may end up waiting a long time before the property sells. This may impact on the divorce process and you may sell the house for a lot less than either of you had anticipated.
It’s also worth noting that in England and Wales, a court can impose an order to prevent the sale of a house until a later date – for example when the youngest child reaches 18.
Can I sell my house after divorce?
There are a number of issues when it comes to selling the house after the divorce, and the main one is that this can become a long-winded process.
This will be the case should one spouse remain in the property while the other one moves out.
In this scenario, whoever remains has very little incentive for selling the house as both partners will need to be on good terms to agree to the sales price and the buyer’s offer. That’s not always the case with many ex-partners barely being on speaking terms.
This means that you really should be in good terms if you consider the need to sell your house after divorce because you need to agree on who gets what until after the divorce has been finalised.
So, is it better to sell a home before or after a divorce?
Again, the question of whether is it better to ‘Sell a home before or after a divorce?’ is a very good one to ask.
There are pros and cons for partners to wait until a divorce is finalised before agreeing to sell their property but this depends on how amicable the partners are with each other and their own circumstances.
Selling before a divorce goes through means both partners will have the time to agree selling terms and how the proceeds will be divided with any spare cash helping to start a new life.
Can I be forced to sell my house in a divorce?
The short answer to the question ‘Can I be forced to sell my house in a divorce?’ is no – but only if both partner’s names are on the mortgage.
- If both names are on the deeds, then both partners will need to give their agreement for the house to be sold, though a court could impose an order forcing the sale as part of the divorce settlement.
- If the house is only in one name, then you need to read the next section to see what you must do.
- However, if one partner is living in the house with their children, then the other partner will need to have a good reason for wanting to sell the property. As an example, the partner may say that all their money is tied up in the family home and they need to sell it so they can live.
On a side note: while partners may agree that one remains in the property and the house may be signed over to them, you should have a watertight legal agreement in place because the partner who left may be able to lodge a claim for the property to be sold at some point in the future.
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How is a house divided in a divorce?
For those who need to know ‘How is a house divided in a divorce?’ then the courts will approach this with a view to sharing assets ‘fairly’. The rules will apply differently in these countries when the home is in just one partner’s name:
In England and Wales
When the house is owned jointly by the partners, then they have an equal stake in it.
If the house is in one person’s name then you’ll need to register your potential rights in the house – check with the Land Registry for England and Wales and protect yourself by completing form HR1 on the Gov.uk website which is the ‘matrimonial home rights notice’.
In Northern Ireland
If there’s just one name on the deeds, you can apply to a court for a ‘matrimonial charge’ which means that you will be informed if the house is remortgaged or sold, but it is advisable to have a solicitor do this for you.
Otherwise, both parties can remain in the home until their marriage is legally brought to an end. The courts are also looking to split any house proceeds and assets ‘equally’.
If your name is not on the deeds then the situation is more complex and you will need to find legal advice or speak with Citizens Advice for information. Essentially, if you leave the property for at least two years, then you’re right to live in it as part of a married or civil partnership will end. Otherwise, the house proceeds will be ‘shared fairly’.
Who gets the house in a divorce with children?
For those who need to know who gets the house in a divorce with children, then the law in England and Wales makes the child’s or children’s welfare a priority in any divorce. Essentially, this means that the court will look to provide a secure home and continuity in a child’s life, wherever that is reasonably possible.
This will ultimately mean that whoever is responsible for the every day care of the child is the one that will, usually, be entitled to remain in the family home.
However, part the question of who will get the house in a divorce is also linked closely to any child custody situation as the court will award usually the right to live in the house to the primary caregiver.
It’s also worth noting that should this occur, then the other partner is not written off automatically from the property’s title deeds and they are not exempt from paying the mortgage.
Your rights when it comes to property during a divorce
Essentially, when it comes to divorce house rights and for those who are looking to sell their property, it’s important to seek legal advice from a qualified solicitor with experience in handling divorces.
This means that the legal procedures will be explained and followed to avoid any potentially expensive pitfalls.
With children in the family home means their priority will take precedence over selling it – and this includes selling the property and dividing the profits between the partners before they apply for a mortgage on a new property.
This then may raise other issues over one partner’s ability to meet stricter affordability criteria when applying for a mortgage. Under Financial Conduct Authority rules, one partner seeking a mortgage may require a mortgage guarantor or if they fail to meet the criteria for a mortgage, then they may have to rent instead of buying a home.
How to sell a home during a divorce
When it comes to anyone wanting to know how to sell a home during a divorce, it is important that partners remain civil with each other because there may be some financial negotiations and decisions that need to be taken to benefit both parties without resorting to paying solicitors to communicate between them.
Or worse, they may see a court deciding what is the necessary course of action if the partners, and their legal representatives, cannot decide.
When it comes to selling a house during a divorce, this is undoubtedly a minefield for everyone’s emotions and great care needs to be taken for those who agree to divorce and to selling their home without their being left financially vulnerable.
The government-run Money Advice Service offers sound and easy to follow advice for anyone looking to sell a house during a divorce and dividing the assets.