Have you and your partner recently decided to separate? If change is on the cards and you want to know what will happen to your property, seeking financial advice is crucial.

Over the last three months, we’ve all had more time at home and we’ve also had an opportunity to reflect on our lives. Some of us have questioned our happiness. Some have pursued new job opportunities, with a recent poll of 1000 British people revealing that 40 per cent described lockdown as a ‘wake-up call’ regarding their career choices.

However, for many others, work is not the main problem. Recent figures from Co-Op Legal Services revealed there has been a spike in the number of couples filing for divorce. More time at home cooped up with our partners has been a strain for many. For some, there has been the sad realisation that a relationship has run its course.

Not surprisingly under the circumstances, Co-Op Legal Services reported a 42 per cent increase in divorce queries between late March and mid-May compared with the same period in 2019. This is likely to result in more than 38,000 homes on the house market, according to estate agents Barrows and Forrester.

However, while it may be good news for the property market, it’s certainly going to take its toll on anyone who has decided to split from their partner.

If you and your partner have decided to separate, it’s understandable that this will feel like a stressful time. Apart from the emotional challenges, you may also be concerned about what will happen to your home. You may have had some initial conversations with your partner but not know where you stand. Knowledge is power, and it will make things slightly easier if you know what your rights are. If you have a home that you own jointly with your partner, it’s important to note that there are different forms of ownership. They are as follows:

Joint tenants – this is where you both own the property equally.

Tenants In Common – this is where you own a share of the property. You may have a 50/50 split, or one party may own more than the other.

Different forms of ownership

When you purchased your property, your solicitor should have advised you on the different forms of ownership and what would have been best for you. An example of where Tenants in Common might have been appropriate would be if one person had put a lot more money into the property than the other.

If your partner owns the property, you may be able to register your interest in it to protect yourself. If you live in England or Wales and the property is registered at the Land Registry, you can protect it by using a Matrimonial Home Rights Notice or Notice of Home Rights. You can check to see if the property is registered here.

If you register your interest in the property then it can’t be sold without you being informed, and your partner won’t be able to apply for a bigger mortgage on your home.

It’s important to be aware that if your name is on the mortgage, you’re currently liable for the entire debt. The same applies to your partner. In other words, if one person refused or was unable to pay their half of the mortgage, the other party would be responsible for all of the mortgage.  

Good communication with your partner is clearly important. If you can sit down and discuss what you would both like to happen in a reasonable way then you will be more likely to be able to reach an amicable solution. You may decide to sell the property, and both move out.

Alternatively, if one person would like to live in the property and can afford to do so, they might buy the other party out. If you have a joint mortgage, you may try to resolve things so that only one person has their name on the mortgage. Whether this can be done depends on your financial circumstances. It’s important to obtain financial advice and know where you stand.

Keeping the family home

If there are children involved, you may decide to keep the home and not change the ownership at all. One partner could stay in it until the children are 18. Of course you would both need to be comfortable with this arrangement.

In order to decide what’s best for both of you, it’s important to obtain detailed financial advice so that you can plan ahead with confidence. For instance, if you plan to sell the property and would like to buy another property on your own, you will need to know what your existing home is worth.

You will also need to know how your financial arrangement with your partner is likely to work. Will you obtain half of the value of the property or is your arrangement likely to be different? Getting good legal advice early on is certainly advisable, so that you know what you’re entitled to and therefore what your financial situation is.

Once you’ve done that, it’s worth seeing a mortgage broker and finding out what you could afford if you were to buy a property on your own. That way, you can start searching for properties within your price range.

We know that any property sale or change of living arrangements can be stressful, especially in a situation like this, so we’re here to help with advice and support. Feel free to get in touch with us if you would like to speak with one of our experienced, friendly advisors in confidence.

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