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Selling a House After a Divorce

Zenyx Griffiths

Written by Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

8th Jul 2021 (Last updated on 27th Apr 2022) 12 minute read

A divorce or separation will often lead to a number of difficult choices and discussions, including what to do with the house you both share. You will need to discuss how the property and its contents will be divided as well as how to handle the mortgage repayments going forward. There will be a variety of paths you can choose so it’s vital you know all your options before making the decision.

We understand that working through a divorce is an extremely difficult and emotional time - that is why we wanted to create this article to help you prepare for the process of selling a house after a divorce, ensuring you can focus on the other important aspects of your life.

Compare My Move work with a number of property and finance experts to create insightful, informative guides that will help you through the process of buying or selling a property. In this article, we will discuss some of the factors you’ll need to consider when selling a house after a divorce.

This article will cover the following:
  1. How is a House Divided During a Divorce in the UK?
  2. Understanding the Rights to Your Home After a Divorce
  3. Does Length of Marriage Affect Divorce Settlement?
  4. Can You Sell the House Before the Divorce?
  5. Do You Have to Sell the Home After a Divorce?
  6. What Should You Do if You Have a Joint Mortgage?
  7. Mortgage Payments After a Divorce
  8. What About Selling a House at the End of a Civil Partnership?
  9. Tips for Selling a House Quickly After a Divorce
  10. Next Steps of Selling a House

How is a House Divided During a Divorce in the UK?

Many divorce cases in the UK will result in each party receiving equal shares of the profits from selling the house. However, this isn’t a guarantee. In legal proceedings, the home in question will be referred to as the ‘former matrimonial home’.

When dividing a house during a divorce, these are the following options when it comes to the former matrimonial home:

  1. One party can buy the other’s share outright and take full ownership.
  2. Both agree to sell the property and share the profit.
  3. One party keeps the house, takes on the mortgage and takes over ownership in their sole name.

If neither of the partners involved can agree to the terms on the property, the case will go to court. This is a rather costly option and at least one partner will likely be disappointed by the results. Whichever option you choose, don’t forget to have the property valued for the settlement. If you cannot agree on the settlement figure, the court will instead order a joint report from a local property surveyor or estate agent.

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Understanding the Rights to Your Home After a Divorce

‘Home rights’ help ensure neither party is forced out of the property, even if they do not have ownership or aren’t named on the mortgage. Knowing your ‘home rights’ will help prevent your ex-partner from selling the property or transferring/increasing the mortgage without your knowledge. It also means that anyone who has already left the property hasn’t forfeited the right to ownership.

Under the Family Law Act 1996, you have the right to:

  • Remain in the house unless ordered to leave by the court.
  • Be notified of any repossession action taken by your mortgage lender.
  • Return to the property if you’ve already moved out and the court permits it.
  • Pay the mortgage and avoid repossession if the other party stops paying the monthly repayments.

    It is recommended that you check if your name is on the Property Register via the Land Registry. If you are not on the register or the title is another person’s name, you may be able to file a ‘Matrimonial Home Rights Notice’ or a ‘Home Rights Notice’ if you live in England or Wales. Don’t forget to speak to your solicitor before committing to any actions.

    According to data from the Office for National Statistics, approximately one-third of marriages have ended in divorce during the past 50 years in England and Wales. This highlights just how important it is to research your rights when sharing a home with your partner.

    Does Length of Marriage Affect Divorce Settlement?

    If you have been married for a long period of time, it may be easier to divide the marital property and assets. It’s vital you seek legal advice before selling a house after a divorce as your solicitor will be able to clearly explain the legal factors that will affect the process.

    When dealing with long-term marriages, the law may assume that one spouse has been relying on the other for income. This could result in the spouse with the lower income being given the greater share of the assets as they may deem it unfair to lower their standard of living. However, if there are children involved, this will obviously be looked into further to include their welfare.

    Typically, a marriage of 1-5 years is considered as short-term, 5-15 years is medium-term and 15 years or over is classed as long-term. However, if you and your spouse lived together before the marriage, this may also be taken into account. If one partner owned the house before the marriage, then this will also be taken into account. The spouse who owned the property before the marriage will likely be given the greatest share, but this is not always a certainty.

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    Can You Sell the House Before the Divorce?

    If you choose to sell the property before the divorce, you will have to make arrangements for any children involved and agree on how to split the assets as early as possible. There are pros and cons to each option, but it ultimately depends on your personal situation and how amicable the relationship is.

    Deciding when to sell your house will be a big decision for both you and your spouse. Selling before the divorce could mean taking your agreed shares of the sale and making a quick process for you both, whilst also allowing everyone time to think about how they want to divide everything. The sale will then also provide you with the money needed to start a new life and find a new home.

    However, if there are disputes, you may want to consider selling the house after the divorce as you should have legally agreed what assets belong where during the process. It would be wise to discuss your options with your solicitor.

    Do You Have to Sell the Home After a Divorce?

    You do not have to sell the house after a divorce as there are a number of ways to deal with the property when separating.

    Depending on how the property is divided during the divorce, one of you may decide to remain in the property. If this occurs, you will then be required to come to an agreement in the future, should you both decide to sell further down the line.

    Some couples will wait until the mortgage is completely paid off before selling the property. Or they may decide to wait until they are able to legally pass the home onto their children. The choice is yours as long as all parties involved agree.

    Many couples going through a divorce will decide to immediately sell the house as it provides all parties with a fresh start. This will also be the most advantageous option if there is an up-market as you could sell the home for more. It’s vital you discuss the situation as much as possible to ensure everyone can come to an agreement as going to court to officially deal with this issue can be costly.

    What Should You Do if You Have a Joint Mortgage?

    If you’re selling a house with a joint mortgage, you and your former partner will remain financially tied until this is dealt with. Any failures to make the repayments during this time could potentially damage both you and your partner’s credit scores, even if one of you no longer lives in the home. Before you plan your next steps, it’s vital you speak to your mortgage lender as soon as possible to update them on your current situation. In a worst-case scenario, if one person refuses to pay the joint mortgage for whatever reason, the property could potentially be repossessed.

    If you have a joint mortgage, one option would be to buy your partner out of the property if you can afford to. This will ensure a quick and clean break, helping you move on. However, if this isn’t a viable option, you could also decide to split the payments equally until it is sold. You should think carefully before deciding to take this step as should your ex-partner stop paying the mortgage repayments, you would also have to deal with the consequences.

    You may also have the option of transferring your current joint mortgage to one person - this should be something you discuss with your mortgage lender. This can sometimes be a beneficial option as whoever remains in the property will no longer have to rely on the other. It also means that the person taken off of the mortgage will be free to get another loan elsewhere.

    How to Get a Name Off a Mortgage After Separation

    If you would prefer a single mortgage rather than a joint mortgage, you should be able to remove your or your partner’s name through a Transfer of Equity. To do this, you will have to meet your mortgage lender’s current eligibility criteria.

    Alternatively, you or your ex-partner could decide to buy the other out or provide the other party with a part of the property’s value. This would mean both of you would keep a stake in the house until it is sold.

    Whatever you decide to do, it’s essential you speak to your mortgage lender before deciding. It may also be worth speaking to a mortgage broker to understand what options are available to you.

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    Mortgage Payments After a Divorce

    Whoever is named on the mortgage will be liable for the repayments. This means that even if you have moved out, you will still be expected to pay the mortgage until it is sorted. This is why it’s recommended that you speak to your mortgage lender and/or mortgage broker as soon as you know you are separating.

    If you are eligible, you may also be able to receive financial help to continue paying the mortgage after the divorce is final. It’s likely you will also be asked for statements from your ex-partner to ensure they are keeping up with their share of the payments.

    What About Selling a House at the End of a Civil Partnership?

    A civil partnership is a legal relationship between two registered individuals who are not related to each other. Whilst those in a civil partnership are not seen as married, they are given legal recognition of the relationship.

    When entering a civil partnership, both partners will be asked to draw up an agreement known as a ‘pre-registration agreement’. This document will clearly explain each partners’ rights and obligations should the relationship end for any reason.

    In this agreement, arrangements should be made for any children, pensions and property involved in the relationship. Whilst the pre-registration agreement is not legally binding, it can influence a court’s decision.

    Tips for Selling a House Quickly After a Divorce

    Here are some of our top tips for selling a house quickly after a divorce:

    1. Work Out Your Finances

    Don’t forget to consider all the costs of selling a house and how these will be split between you and your ex-partner. As difficult as it may be, it’s essential you be realistic, straightforward and amicable when working out finances as you will both want the best deal. Keep copies of any important documents and ensure all records are organised.

    2. Explain Your Priorities

    You need to ensure a clear and open discussion with your ex-partner to help create a more agreeable process. Work out how much you can accept for the property to ensure both parties are able to live comfortably after the move. There will be a number of added fees to consider, such as conveyancing costs, surveying costs and estate agent fees, so don’t forget to factor in each aspect and create a realistic budget for both you and your previous partner.

    During this discussion, you both may need to agree that to sell the house quickly, you may need to accept a lower offer. Be as open with each other as possible to ensure a smooth process and establish common ground. If you both agree that the speed of the sale is more important to provide you with a fresh start, then be realistic about how low of an offer you would be happy to take. Vice versa, if one partner is struggling financially, you may need to accept that you’ll have to wait a little bit longer until the right offer comes in.

    3. Consider How You Will Sell

    You will have several options for selling your property that you will need to discuss with your ex-partner.

    If you prefer a traditional house sale, you will be best suited to selling through an estate agent. This would mean selling the home on the open market and factoring in the added estate agent fees. It can take anywhere between 2-6 months to sell a house through the open market.

    Another alternative will be to sell your house via an auction. This can sometimes be a quicker process and you’ll also be able to set a base price you’re willing to accept. It can take around 6-10 weeks to sell a house via an auction, but the auctioneer will take a certain percentage of the price and the home may sell for lower than the market value.

    Finally, there is also the option of using a quick house sale company. Some quick house sale companies will sell your property within as little as 2 weeks, offering a clean slate for both you and your ex-partner fairly quickly. However, these companies are not officially regulated by the government and so it’s essential you find a reputable and trustworthy company. It’s often recommended that you find a company that is a member of The National Association of Property Buyers as you will have added protection should something go wrong.

    4. Protect Yourself

    Research your property rights when selling a house during a divorce and find out whose name is on the Title Deeds. As previously mentioned in the article, it would be wise to get a ‘Notice of Home Rights’ to ensure your ex-partner cannot sell the property without your knowledge.

    5. Ensure an Open Line of Communication

    Whether it’s your ex-partner, your conveyancer or your property surveyor, you need to keep a clear and open line of communication with all parties involved in the house sale. Make sure you get regular updates and that everyone is aware of the next step in the process.

    Next Steps of Selling a House

    This article is part of our selling a house guide. In our next article, we look at everything you need to know about the Memorandum of Sale. To learn more read what is a memorandum of sale?

    Zenyx Griffiths

    Before Compare My Move, Zenyx once wrote lifestyle and entertainment articles for the online magazine, Society19 as well as news articles for Ffotogallery.

    Gareth Brooks

    Reviewed by Gareth Brooks

    Solicitor and Partner, RMNJ Solicitors

    With 19 years of experience in the residential conveyancing industry, Gareth Brooks is a partner and head of management for the conveyancing department at RMNJ Solicitors.