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Divorce & House Rights

Submitted By Benjamin Yates:

The Fear and the reality

One of scariest things about splitting up is the fear, and the reality, of losing your home. As well as being a shrine to your relationship, having a secure home is the foundation upon which most of us build our lives.

Who’s entitled to what

Working out who should stay in the marital home, or the home you have shared together, and who should move out, and who is entitled to what, can be a very complicated and emotional process. For most people who have bought a home together, this will be their biggest shared asset and the mortgage will also be their biggest debt.

Usually, it’s not a good idea to stay living together once you have split up. Once you start going through legal proceedings, or one of you gets another partner, it will become essential to start leading separate lives. If your ex moves out, but needs some financial help to do so, it’s a good idea for you to help them, if you can, by sharing the first month’s rent and deposit.

Before you decide what to do, you’ll need to find out your rights over the property you are living in.


If you rent, you need to look at who signed the agreement. If the property is only in one person’s name and you have a casual agreement on paying half each, then you need to negotiate with each other about what will happen now one of you is leaving the home. Some couples agree to continue to pay the joint rent for the first few months, plus paying for alternative accommodation for the person who has left the property.

Others simply agree that they fend from themselves from now on, as it is simpler than fighting. If there are rent arrears, you will need to agree how this will be paid. If the arrears are in only one person’s name, then they will be solely responsible for the debt.

Home owners

If you have a mortgage and your home is registered in your spouse’s name alone, you need to make outsiders aware of your interest in the home. This will ensure that your ex cannot sell or re-mortgage the home without your consent.

Even if the home is just in your spouse’s name, you have the right to stay in the marital home, until a divorce is granted. But then, it may be the case that you are entitled to nothing. It all depends how much you have contributed, how long the marriage was, whether there are any children. Get legal advice immediately from Citizens Advice, or a solicitor/lawyer.

Suspend the mortgage?

Inform your building society/mortgage lender what is happening. It can be a good idea to suspend your mortgage for a couple of months while you both get straight – however, be aware you will have to pay the two extra months at the end of your mortgage term.

The buy-out

The easiest option, when you split up and both own a property, is for one partner to buy the other out. But if there is a lot of equity in the property, neither partner may have the resources to do this. Your mortgage lender may be willing to lend you the necessary funds, but before accepting ask yourself these questions: Can you realistically afford those repayments each month? Do you really want to saddle yourself with such a huge mortgage? Is it a good idea to stay in this place with such strong memories of your ex? Wouldn’t it be better to sell-up and start again?

Renting rooms

If you want to stay in your home but can’t afford to buy your ex out, or take on the whole rent yourself, if you rent jointly, then you may decide to rent out rooms to tenants. Check your mortgage and rental agreements, as you may be breaking your contract. You can also get legal advice about renting rooms from a law centre.

Your children’s home

If your house is your children’s home, a court may decide that the parent who has custody of the children should remain in the house and the partner who does not have custody should move out, even they haven’t already, and pay mortgage payments as part of the divorce settlement. It very much depends on both partners financial circumstances. Seek advice.

Eligible for benefits/welfare?

You may be eligible for benefits, such as housing/welfare benefit, income support, or child support, now you are single. Contact your local Citizens Advice Bureau in the UK or local town hall in the USA to see if you are eligible.

Eligible for council/public housing?

If you are made homeless because your relationship breaks-up i.e. you have no money to rent, or buy, a place to live and are sleeping on friends or family’s floor, or on the streets, then you may be eligible for a council/public flat or house.

Need to Knows

  • know your rights, don’t assume anything
  • you may be entitled to a share of the marital home, even if it’s in your spouse’s name
  • living under the same roof will prove very difficult
  • buying out your ex may not be your best option

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