Selling a House After a Divorce
Selling a house after a divorce can be challenging and difficult. Not only does it bring up tough conversations, but you have to make important decisions too.
When it comes to selling the house, there will be a variety of paths you can choose. It’s vital you know the options available before making a decision. You'll need to discuss how the property and its contents will be divided. How to handle the mortgage repayments going forward will also need to be arranged.
We understand that working through a divorce is an emotional time. This is why we created this article, as a guide to selling a house during a divorce.
How is a House Divided in a Divorce in the UK?
There are many ways a house is divided in a divorce in the UK. The option you follow will depend on your personal situation.
Many divorce cases will result in each party receiving equal shares of the profits from selling the house. However, this isn’t a guarantee.
Here are some factors to consider that can impact the decision you make:
- Financial earnings and income
- The length of the marriage
- Medical conditions
In legal proceedings, the home 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:
- One party can buy the other’s share outright and take full ownership.
- Both agree to sell the property and share the profit.
- 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 costly and lengthy process. If the settlement figure cannot be agreed upon, the court will order a joint report from a local property surveyor or estate agent.
What are Your Rights to Your Home After a Divorce
When you're going through a divorce, you have rights to your home. ‘Home rights’ help ensure neither party is forced out of a property. Even if you do not have ownership or aren’t named on the mortgage, you're still able to have input into what happens to the home.
Knowing your ‘home rights’ will help prevent issues from occurring. It prevents your ex-partner from selling the house or transferring the mortgage without your knowledge. It also means that if one spouse has left the property, they haven't lost their rights to the house.
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.
If you're unsure of your rights, you should check if your name is on the Property Register via the Land Registry.
If the title is another person’s name, you can file a ‘Matrimonial Home Rights Notice’ or a ‘Home Rights Notice’. This will help prevent the home from being sold without your permission. A solicitor will be able to advise you on this.
It's important to understand all your options. For example, you can look into a Mesher Order or Martin Agreement to provide temporary stability to your financial situation. Both defer the initial sale of the house which can be beneficial in some instances.
What is a Mesher Order?
When owning a home, a Mesher Order can be used. This is a court order that's put in place often to provide stability for the children involved in a divorce.
It ensures the family home will not be sold until an agreed date or event has passed. For example, when a child reaches a certain age, or when they leave for university.
The Mesher Order clearly states how the home will be sold, and until it's triggered, the house will remain in the name of both partners.
It's particularly useful for parents looking to stay in the matrimonial home if they are unable to take full ownership of the home and mortgage.
The only downside to this order is that a divorced couple is still tied together financially until the Mesher Order has been fulfilled.
What is a Martin Agreement?
A Martin Agreement differs from a Mesher Order. It typically involves a divorced couple that doesn't have children to support.
It's a type of legal agreement that states when the house will be sold. It provides stability for a period of time if a person wants to stay at the matrimonial home.
In a similar way to a Mesher Order, a specific event will trigger the agreement for the sale of the home. This is often when a person decides to remarry after the divorce.
Does Length of Marriage Affect Divorce Settlement?
The length of a marriage can affect a divorce settlement and selling a house after separation.
A marriage of 1-5 years is considered short-term, 5-15 years is medium-term and 15 years or over is classed as long-term. 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, this will also have an effect. The spouse who owned the property before the marriage will likely be given the greatest share, but this is not always a certainty.
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. This is because it's deemed unfair to lower their standard of living after a divorce.
Can You Sell the House Before the Divorce?
You can choose to sell the house before the divorce. This is dependent on the best solution to your situation and the relationship between ex-spouses. There are pros and cons to this.
For those who are still amicable, this can help finance the divorce. It could mean taking your agreed shares of the sale and making a quick process for you both.
It also allows 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.
If there are disputes, or if the situation is complicated, you may want to consider selling the house after the divorce. The divorce will dictate legally what assets belong to whom during the process.
If you choose to sell the property before the divorce, you will have to make arrangements for any children involved . You should agree on how to split the assets as early as possible.
We always recommend speaking to your solicitor to gain professional advice on selling the house in a divorce.
Do You Have to Sell the Home After a Divorce?
You do not have to sell the house after a divorce. There are many 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, such as the Mesher Order, or the Martin Agreement.
Some couples wait until the mortgage is paid off before selling the property. Others decide to wait until they can legally pass the home on to their children.
Many couples going through a divorce will decide to immediately sell the house as it provides all parties with a fresh start.
It’s vital to discuss the situation as much as possible. This ensures everyone can come to an agreement, Going to court to officially deal with the issue will 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 the property has been sold. Alternatively, until the ownership is changed. Any failure to make the repayments can damage both parties' credit scores.
If one person refuses to pay the joint mortgage for whatever reason, the property could be repossessed. It’s vital you speak to your mortgage lender as soon as possible to update them on your current situation.
If you have a joint mortgage, you can buy your partner out of the property if you can afford to. This ensures a quick and clean break. If not, you can split the payments equally until it is sold.
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. 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 can 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.
Mortgage Payments After a Divorce
Whoever is named on the mortgage will be liable for the repayments. Even if you have moved out, you will still be expected to pay the mortgage until it's resolved.
Divorce and mortgage payments can be complicated. We recommend speaking to your mortgage lender and/or mortgage broker as soon as you separate.
If you are eligible, you may be able to receive financial help to continue paying the mortgage after the divorce is final.
What About Selling a House at the End of a Civil Partnership?
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 explain each partner’s rights and obligations should the relationship end for any reason. 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
A divorce house sale will follow the same protocol as a regular house sale. However, both parties will typically want this to happen quickly.
Here are some of our top tips for selling a house after a divorce:
1. Work Out Your Finances
Consider all the costs of selling a house and how these will be split between you and your ex-partner. 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 some added fees to consider, such as conveyancing costs, surveying costs and estate agent fees. Don’t forget to factor in each aspect and create a realistic budget for you both.
3. Protect Yourself
Research your property rights when selling a house during a divorce and find out whose name is on the Title Deeds. You should have a ‘Notice of Home Rights’ to ensure your ex-partner cannot sell the property without your knowledge.
4. Keep an Open Line of Communication
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 ensure everyone is aware of the next step in the process.
How to Sell a House After Divorce
You have several options for selling your property that you will need to discuss with your ex-partner.
Traditional House Sale
If you prefer a traditional house sale, you should sell through an estate agent.
It can take anywhere between 2-6 months to sell a house through the open market, and you will need to pay estate agent fees.
Selling Via an Auction
Selling your house via an auction can sometimes be a quicker process. It can take around 6-10 weeks to sell a house.
While you can set a base price you’re willing to accept, the auctioneer will take a certain percentage of the price. You also risk the home being sold for lower than the market value.
Quick House Sale Company
Some quick house sale companies can sell your property in as little as 2 weeks. This offers a clean slate for both you and your ex-partner.
As these companies are not officially regulated by the government, it’s essential to find a reputable and trustworthy company.
It’s recommended to use a company that is a member of The National Association of Property Buyers. This provides added protection should something go wrong.