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How to split up when you own a house together

By , on Thursday April 11, 2024 at 3:44 pm

Plenty of important arrangements usually need to be made if you are separating from your partner. Finalising what happens if you are splitting up when you own a house can often be among the most challenging.

Exactly what will happen if you split up when owning a house will depend on your circumstances and whether you have any previous agreements in place with your former partner.

If you need tailored advice on what will happen to your house when you break up with your partner, our can team can provide comprehensive support.

What happens if you break up with someone you own a house with?

If you are married

If you are married, the house will be considered part of the matrimonial assets to be divided between both you and your former partner. You will both likely have an equal right to claim the property and the final agreement you make can be made on a voluntary basis. If you cannot reach an agreement, the courts can intervene.

There will usually be two options for the home during divorce. The property can be transferred into one person’s sole name, or the property can be sold with the equity being split.

If you come to a voluntary agreement, this can be made legally binding through a consent order. Without a consent order in place, there is a possibility that your former partner could make a claim of your assets, including the house.

If you have previously signed a nuptial agreement (pre or post), this will clearly set out your financial rights and obligations, including in relation to your house. While not strictly legally binding, a prenup or postnup will be taken into consideration by the courts if there any disagreements during a divorce.

If you are unmarried

If you are not married, the ownership of the property is much less straightforward. The default position is that unmarried partners have no legal rights to each other’s property, which can cause plenty of issues during a separation.

In these situations, the courts can only determine who owns the property and in what shares on the basis of actual contributions and/or their intentions.

If you’re both on the title deeds, it means that you will both need to decide what happens to your home. However, if your name is not on the deeds, you will not have an automatic right to stay in the property or to receive any shares in the proceeds of a sale.

For unmarried couples, a cohabitation agreement, can be used as a way of recording both parties’ intentions and a record of their respective contributions.

What happens if you split up when your partner owns the house?

If your former partner owns the house, your rights will be somewhat limited, save for situations where you already have a cohabitation agreement in place.

In these cases, the default legal position will be that you have no right to a share of the house. However, you may be able to demonstrate that you have a right to a share, if for instance, you have acquired an interest in the property by contributing to the mortgage or paying for home improvements.

What to do if you split up with someone you own a house with

If you split up with someone that you own a house with, you will likely have several options at your disposal, the most suitable of which will depend on your circumstances.

Typical options involve:

  • Selling the house and splitting the equity
  • One party ‘buying out’ the other’s share of the house
  • Keeping the house and not changing ownership until a specific trigger event (such as your children moving out)
  • Transferring part of the value of the property from one party to the other

If more than one property is owned, it is recommended that urgent advice in the tax year of separation is retrieved to minimise tax liabilities on any possible transfer.

What happens if you have a joint mortgage and split up?

If you hold a joint mortgage and split up with your partner, you will both be equally responsible for the ongoing mortgage repayments. Even if you are no longer living at the house, you will still be responsible for the mortgage until a decision is made over the status of the house.

Our solicitors are here for you

If you are going through a divorce or separation and are unsure what could happen to your house, we can offer expert advice and support. We can ensure that you have a clear understanding over your rights and the steps you need to take.

At Woolley & Co Solicitors, our expert family lawyers can offer specialist legal advice on a wide range of issues, including cohabitation agreements and cohabitation disputes. We can also advise you on the full implications of getting married and the future of your house, including whether a prenuptial agreement may be appropriate, and turning a divorce settlement into a consent order.

To take advantage of your free 30-minute consultation with an expert local family law solicitor, call 0800 321 3832 or complete our quick online form.

Karen Agnew-Griffith
Divorce and family lawyer Thetford

Blog Author - Karen Agnew-Griffith

Karen Agnew-GriffithKaren Agnew-Griffith

Karen is a divorce and family lawyer with Woolley & Co, based in Norfolk, but she acts for clients across the UK, including Suffolk, Hertfordshire and London, and worldwide.


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