Selling or Dividing a House After a Divorce

signing divorce papers

Deciding what to do with the family home after a divorce or separation needs serious consideration. Do you agree to sell the house, or does one partner buy the other out and keep the property? If you’d like a speedy sale and a clean break, which is the best company to sell a house quickly? We’ve put together a guide to give clarity on your rights during a divorce and how a house is divided if you decide to sell.

In this article:

Who gets the house in a divorce?

The family home is usually the biggest asset shared between a couple. During a divorce, in around two thirds of cases the home is sold because it’s difficult to afford the running costs on a single income.

It’s worth bearing in mind that it’s not automatically agreed as a 50/50 split. There are things that affect the decision, like who owns the property, how long you’ve been married and who can support themselves.

Who gets to keep the home can often be decided between the divorcing couple. It’s much cheaper if you can agree how to split your finances and home without appointing solicitors or attending court.

The decision of who gets the house depends on many things. Usually, the home can be in one name, or both. If it’s in one name, it doesn’t mean that person automatically keeps the property. So, it’s important to know your rights. All sorts of factors are considered, including:

  • Whether there are children under 18 and which parent they’ll live with
  • How old is each spouse?
  • How long were you married?
  • Annual earnings and responsibilities
  • Who contributed what finances and assets to the marriage?

Who gets the house when children are involved?

Doing what’s best for the children is a priority in many separations. Keeping a stable family environment, with the same school and the same friends for children is the ideal scenario. When it comes to deciding on the house, here are some of the options you should consider:

  • Sell your home and split the money. Hopefully you can buy two separate homes, so the children can spend time with you both.
  • One partner can buy the other partner out. This allows one parent and the children to stay in the family home.
  • Keep the home, both parents remain as owners until an agreed event, like the children leave home, or turn eighteen. This is a known as a Mesher agreement.
  • You can also transfer an interest in the home from one owner to the other. They will still be entitled to a share of the property once it’s sold even if they don’t live there.
  • A Martin Order is a deferred sale agreed in court, this entitles one partner to stay in the property for life or until they remarry.

If you can’t decide between yourselves, the court can help you. The younger the children are, the more important it is to give them a good home with access to both parents. You can seek expert legal advice from a Family Law and Divorce Solicitor.

Should I sell my house before or after a divorce?

There are equal pros and cons to selling your home before a divorce finalises. It really depends on the situation and how amicable the relationship is. Selling your home before a divorce gives you both parties time to agree terms and set up how the house is divided in a sale. It also gives you the spare cash to start a new life. A quick sale sets the ball rolling for a swift break, so you can cut ties and move on.

However, selling after a divorce really needs both parties to be on speaking terms, with a good, clear mindset. It can give you time to assess the situation and really weigh up your options, so you make good decisions – rather than costly, emotional ones.

Remember, if you wait until after the divorce finalises, you may end up with a spouse who’s quite happy to stay in your home. With no incentive to move out, it can be quite frustrating.

Top tip

Sell when the market is good. Whether that means selling before a divorce and getting a great price or waiting until afterwards when a slow market picks up, you could be better off financially depending on your patience.

Protecting your property rights

When going through a divorce, one of the first things you need to do is protect yourself and your right to the property. Establishing your ‘home rights’ prevents your previous partner from selling, transferring or increasing the mortgage without your knowledge. If you think the home is registered solely in your partner’s name, protecting yourself is even more important.

Home rights make sure neither partner can be forced to leave the home, even if they don’t own it or aren’t named on the mortgage. It also means that if you’ve already left, you don’t forfeit any rights to the ownership. The Family Law Act 1996 gives homeowners the right to:

  • Stay in your home unless a court order excludes you from being there.
  • Be notified of any repossession action taken by your mortgage lender.
  • If you moved out, enable the court to allow you to return.
  • Pay the mortgage and avoid repossession if the person named stops making the payments.

The Title Deeds are the legal documents that feature the owner or owners’ names. If only your partner’s name is featured on the Title Deeds you can register your interest. If you live in England or Wales you need to get in touch with the Land Registry and use a ‘matrimonial home rights notice’ or ‘home rights notice’. To check if your home is registered, and find its title number, visit the HM Land Registry For England and Wales. Free forms are available called HR1.

Top Tip

If your property isn’t registered, you can still protect your rights with a ‘class F land charge’ for £1.

Protecting your rights in Scotland, Northern Ireland and other places is just as simple. Take a look here for help.

Who pays the mortgage during a divorce?

Anyone named on the mortgage is liable for the repayments of the debt. If it’s a joint mortgage, you’re both equally liable. So, even if you’ve moved out, you still need to keep paying the mortgage.

You should get in touch with your mortgage lender as soon as you know you are separating. Particularly if you think you might struggle to keep up the repayments or think you may be left to make the payments alone.

You may be able to receive extra financial help if you’re eligible for benefits. You could even ask for statements to make sure your ex-partner is keeping up the payments. But the main thing is to make sure that you can put measures into place to stop your partner from applying to increase the mortgage.

How to sell quickly after a divorce

Depending on your timescales and which method you choose, you could sell your house in as little as seven days to 6 months.

Sell via an estate agent

Selling on the open market can take anywhere between 3 to 6 months or longer depending on the market. You also need to consider the cost of selling via estate agents as well as the fact that you may end up selling for less that the asking price if your house is not selling quickly enough. Take a look at our advice on how to sell your house fast for more information.

Sell via auction

Selling at auction is useful for those wanting a quick sale of a dilapidated or short lease property. The former probably won’t be the case for a family home. The upside is that you would be able to sell your house in 6 to 10 weeks. Your house may sell for more or less than the market value depending on demand driven by multiple buyers. You should expect to pay 2.5% of that to the auctioneer.

Sell to a quick house sale company

If you’re looking to sell a property quickly for a clean break, then you might consider a quick property sale company like Good Move. Quick house sales allow you to sell your property in as little as two weeks, with your seller’s fees all paid for, regardless of the condition of the property. You just have to find a reputable company and get in touch to begin the process of selling to them.

The quick house sale market is not officially regulated by the government, so some house buyers are not accountable or responsible. We recommend choosing a house buyer that is a member of The National Association of Property Buyers like Good Move. This ensures that you are protected if anything goes wrong and you would be entitled to restitution via the Property Ombudsman as well.

To sell to Good Move, get an instant quote online now. Get in touch with our experienced surveying team here at Good Move for a fast, convenient sale.

Get a Cash Offer

We are regulated by...

  • NAPB
  • RICS
  • NAEA
  • The Property Ombudsman
  • Trading Standards

Good Move are proud to be the most regulated property buyer operating in the ‘Quick House Sale’ industry.