As divorce lawyers we are asked, often at the first meeting with a separating husband or wife, whether a husband or wife will get the house in the divorce financial settlement. It is a perfectly reasonable question to ask your family law solicitor when embarking on no-fault divorce proceedings.
Divorce financial settlements and the family home
It can be frustrating for both the family lawyer and a separating husband or wife if a divorce solicitor can’t answer the question ‘’who gets the house?’’ at a first meeting. Sadly, solicitors have a bit of a bad reputation for not answering a question with a straightforward reply but that’s not because they don’t want to answer but often down to needing more information before being able to give an informed legal opinion.
What information is needed to decide who gets the house in a divorce?
A lot of the information needed to help guide you on who is likely to get the house in a divorce financial settlement is pretty basic but not everyone knows all the answers at a first meeting with their divorce solicitor. The necessary information is:
- How much is the house worth – this can be your estimate rather than a valuation
- Is there a mortgage? If so, how much is outstanding on the mortgage and how much does the mortgage cost each month? Are the payments due to go up?
- Is there an endowment policy linked to the mortgage? If so, how much are the monthly payments and what is the surrender value of the policy?
- Are there any other loans or debts secured against the house?
- Did any family members lend or give you money to help buy the house or to fund home improvements?
- Was the house owned by you or your spouse before you started living together or before you got married?
- Do you have a prenuptial agreement or postnup (after marriage) agreement in place that says how your property will be split if you get divorced?
- What other property, savings, pensions, and investments do you and your husband or wife or civil partner own, and what do you both earn?
- Do you have children? This is relevant as having children affects the size of your housing requirements and you may also feel constrained in your choice of relocation by school catchment areas or shared parenting arrangements
How much do you both need to spend to buy new houses? The answer may depend on whether you or your husband or wife will be looking after the children full-time or if one of you plans to move out of the area
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Don’t worry if you don’t have the information to help decide who should get the house in the divorce
The main thing to remember is that you are not alone. Lots of people are in the same position and don’t know the value of investments or what sort of mortgage they have or the amount outstanding on loans. This can be the case whether or not you own property and investments with your spouse or if the family home and all the investments are held in your spouse’s name.
If you can’t get the information then your divorce solicitor can help. If you are worried that your husband or wife hasn’t given you all the information and paperwork or if you are concerned that they have hidden investments or not told you about extra bank accounts then your family law solicitor can carry out investigations to make sure there is full financial disclosure.
Talk to a divorce solicitor about who gets the house in a divorce
If you are thinking about splitting up it is never too early to talk to a family law solicitor to explore your options. Seeing a divorce solicitor isn’t just about sorting out who gets the house. You will also need to talk about other financial matters, such as spousal maintenance, get advice on childcare arrangements or, if you are planning on getting divorced, get help with the no-fault divorce proceedings.
Getting specialist legal help at an early stage in your separation can pay dividends as it can reduce conflict by helping you both understand your legal options and save money by reducing potential areas of conflict.
Seeing a family law solicitor for an initial consultation and review may not be as expensive as you might fear and in the long term could save you a lot of stress and fear of the unknown legal territory.
At Evolve Family Law we believe in providing trusted advice for a transparent fee. Knowing how worrying it can be to meet a divorce solicitor for the first time we offer a fixed fee comprehensive initial review of your situation.
At that meeting, we can explore your circumstances and what information is needed to help you come to informed decisions on what will work for you. Sometimes people automatically think they want to keep the house but, after they have had time to reflect, they realise they either want a fresh start or want to release cash. What is right for you and your family is different from what is right for the next couple. That is why bespoke early advice is needed so you don’t get railroaded into quick decisions about your long-term family future.
Who does get the house when you divorce?
Often the answer to who gets the family home lies in what other assets there are and choices and priorities. If you want the house, it may mean that you don’t get a share of your spouse’s pension. That is why it is so important to know how much everything is worth before deciding who gets the house. Often, a husband or wife will say that their spouse has said they can have the house. That sounds great, maybe even generous, but when you explore the fact that your spouse’s pension is worth 5 times the equity in the family home, or that you won’t be able to afford to stay in the house because of the mortgage payments or household bills, then getting the house doesn’t seem such a great deal.
As frustrating as it may sound sometimes it pays to reflect and take your time to decide on who gets the house. That way, if you do end up with the family home, you can be sure that it is a fair divorce financial settlement.