Studies on divorcees reach the same conclusions time and time again: those undergoing divorce must learn to cope with a plethora of psychological difficulties such as depression, increased stress, and an overall higher mortality risk compared to those who remain married. This shouldn’t come as a surprise; after all, divorcing can be one of the most stressful processes in a person’s life. Even though, in the vast majority of cases, it is preferable to staying in an unhappy marriage, a divorce can leave you feeling anxious, bitter, and uncertain.
Separating from a person who’s been such an integral part of your life is difficult enough even without the added stress of splitting all of your possessions. Determining who gets the house in a divorce is probably one of the toughest decisions a couple must make due to the fundamental attachment of humans to physical spaces. The place where one has spent a large swathe of one’s life becomes more significant than just a shelter; a person’s home is a physical reminder of all that has gone on while he’s lived there. Selling a house after divorce threatens to erase the only physical place with the power of evoking memories that would otherwise fade over time. Letting go of the past can be difficult; let’s try making the technical details pertaining to home selling following a separation easier to grasp.
Who gets the house in a divorce?
The answer to this question depends largely on whether or not the two spouses can decide how to split their financial assets without the help of a solicitor. In most cases, due to the breakdown of the marital relationship, the two spouses will not be able to work together to divide their assets in a way that pleases both of them.
If this is the case with you and your partner, you will need to apply to a court in order to obtain what is known as a financial order. Through a financial order a judge will decide how your assets will be split. He will base his decision on a number of factors including:
- How long you’ve been married
- Your ages
- Your earning potentials
- Your living expenses
- The roles of each spouse in the marriage (breadwinner, primary carer etc.)
- The nature of your assets (who contributed what to the jointly-owned assets)
The court will endeavour to adopt the fairest solution and meet everyone’s needs, paying special attention to the well-being of any children first. The main objective of the court will be to ensure that the children are taken care of in terms of housing and child maintenance requirements. Judges will also try to organize a clean break so that the two spouses are no longer tied together financially.
Selling a house before divorce:
A few options are available for those who want to sell their home before the divorce proceedings are finalised:
Buy your partner out
While this option won’t be available to all those who are divorcing, if your finances allow you to buy your partner out, this is probably the best course of action to follow. The house will remain in your sole property and your partner will be out of your hair. If you can’t decide on a valuation for the house, you can get an independent surveyor to provide one which is impartial.
Transfer ownership rights from one partner to the other
If the housing market is in a slump during your divorce proceedings, ownership rights can be transferred from one spouse to the other. In this case, the person who gave up their ownership rights would retain an entitlement to a percentage of the final sale proceeds.
Problems can arise in this case as well. The person still living in the house could potentially postpone the sale indefinitely, preventing the other party from ever beneficiating from their stake.
Sell and move out
If the market is in a good place, you can simply sell your home and divide the proceeds however you and your partner see fit, provided you agree on who gets what percentage of the sale price and on the lowest price you’re willing to accept. If you can’t seem to shift your home, check if one or more of these reasons why your house isn’t selling are to blame and learn how you can remedy any of them.
Ask the court to resolve the sale
English and Welsh courts have the option of issuing a Mesher Order through which the sale is deferred until a specific event occurs. It is common for the sale to be postponed until the youngest child turns eighteen, after which the proceeds from the house sale are divided among you and your partner according to the court order.
A court can also give one partner the right to occupy the property until remarriage through a Martin Order. The sale can occur after the remarriage or after the ex-spouse’s death; not an ideal situation for those looking to sell their house fast.
Keep in mind that selling before the divorce proceedings are finalised can lead to impulsive decisions being taken. Make sure you keep a cool head and consider things carefully before diving into more life-changing undertakings following your resolution to divorce.
Selling a house after divorce:
Selling your house after the divorce proceedings are finalised is probably the best option if neither you nor your partner are facing financial difficulties. You’ll both have plenty of time to negotiate directly or, if you didn’t end the relationship on good terms, indirectly through lawyers.
One possible drawback is that the house selling process can take a while. If you and your former spouse have decided that they will continue living in the house until the sale, they could purposely make the process more difficult. This is why you should agree on selling conditions beforehand in writing and establish a minimum price for which you’d both be happy to part with your former matrimonial home. If you and your ex-spouse are facing financial difficulties, you could look into ways to make your house sell faster.
What happens to a joint mortgage when you divorce?
Another factor which can complicate the selling of your home following a divorce is a joint mortgage. A joint mortgage ties you financially to your ex-spouse and any failure to make mortgage payments will affect both of your credit scores, regardless of whether you’re both still living in the house or not. Furthermore, if your spouse refuses to make mortgage payments, you could both face the very real prospect of repossession (unless you want to also cover their part of the outlay).
If you have a joint mortgage with your ex-spouse, the best option following divorce would be to transfer it under just one of your names. This will make only one of you liable to make mortgage payments and will allow the other person to apply for a new mortgage on a new property if they so wish. Another advantage of doing this is that it cuts all financial ties between you and your ex-partner and allows for a clean break following your divorce.
If you decide to transfer the mortgage in your sole name, you need to make sure you let your mortgage lender know as soon as possible. It’s a good idea to ask him for advice in order to make sure that you’ll be able to make the payments on time and not be faced with the prospect of repossession further down the line. If your mortgage lender doesn’t think it’s feasible for you to sustain the financial burden of making mortgage payments by yourself, you might be forced to relocate to a cheaper property. This is not all bad though; there are many benefits to downsizing, and you could look back on this decision as one of the best you’ve ever made, even if it might seem like you’re in a very difficult spot at the moment.
Many options are available to those wishing to sell their house following a divorce. Whether you decide to sell before or after divorce proceedings are over, you should make sure that your ownership rights are in order and that you are aware of any issues relating to jointly owned mortgages. For those whose marriages have also produced children, thinking of the little ones in these trying times is crucial; try making the transition as smooth as possible for them since they are often the ones who are most affected.