As a family law solicitor for almost 30 years the most common question I am asked when I first speak to a client is “Will I lose my family home?” Clearly this is one of the most pressing concerns for people when it comes to separation and divorce and that is understandable. The family home is a treasured possession. Often the family have lived there for years, the children have grown up there and it’s a comfortable and familiar environment.
If children are approaching challenging times in their lives, for example exams or problems at school or in relationships the home is the one thing they feel they can rely on.
When a couple separate there’s a real fear of the unknown and these emotional concerns are at the forefront of many people’s concerns when they call a family solicitor.
What I spend time doing with my clients is understanding their needs. Having talked things through, very often once the various options have been explained clearly, letting go of the family home isn’t as daunting as it at first seemed.
When it comes to the treatment of a house in divorce and separation there are a number of options:
- The family home can be retained but this is unlikely if the property is too large or if the person wishing to retain it has insufficient mortgage capacity and therefore can’t raise funds to “buy out” the other person. That said this is certainly an option to consider.
- It can be the case that one parties’ interest in the family home can be postponed until the children are older. That means one party continues to live there with the children but the other party still has a financial stake in the property. This can be achieved via a Court Order. It is a rare order, to be honest, because the Courts would much rather the assets are divided at the earliest opportunity. The major concern is what might happen if either party moves on to live with someone else, or even remarry.
- If the property is to be sold the biggest dilemma is about the new house, where it will be, what will it be like, will it provide the same kind of home comforts they and the children have been used to. Often my clients are frightened of the idea of selling and worried about where they will be expected to live. However, after a sale has gone ahead and a new property has been occupied for some time and things have settled down many recognise it as a positive, helping them to move on and start building a new life. In a newer property, in a better state of repair with lower running costs may provide a feeling of independence for the party concerned.
When a couple separates or gets a divorce the family home doesn’t have to be sold, it may be that it can be retained. But, if a sale is inevitable this doesn’t need to be as difficult as people imagine. Many of my clients are able to see that it provides a new opportunity and a chance to be in control and provide financial security for them in the future. Of course, the most important thing is to get some good legal and financial advice, to make sure the decisions you make when you split are in your best interest.
Family Law Solicitor Sutton Coldfield