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Dividing Your Assets Before Divorce

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 8 Aug 2018 |
 
Divorce Assets Divide House Home

When you are in the midst of a relationship breakdown the largest shared asset that you have is likely to be your home. However, this is probably not the only shared property that you and your spouse will have, and that’s before you consider the car, the items of furniture, the electrical equipment, the clothing, ornaments and items of sentimental value, amongst others.

It is important to remember that couples have an absolute right to agree to divide their assets amicably and without input from lawyers or the court. It is also possible for one person to state that they do not want to receive anything from their former spouse. (Billie Piper famously received nothing from her far wealthier partner Chris Evans.)

The Family Home

No two divorces are the same, so who gets the family home will depend on your individual circumstances. Generally, thought, the way in which the matter of the family home is dealt with depends on your relationship with your partner. If you trust one another, you can get together to discuss what to do openly and honestly. It may be that you can afford for one of you to stay in the house whilst the other finds alternative accommodation, or that you agree to sell the house and split the proceeds in order to go your separate ways.

If the Property is in One Person’s Name

In the event that the property you own is in your spouse or partner’s name only, you should register a ‘caution’ against the property, either under section 4 of the Matrimonial Homes Act, or a ‘Class F Land Charge’ with the land registry. Your estranged spouse will not be able to sell the property, or raise finance against it, without your consent. If they do, this is fraud.

If You Are Leaving the Family Home

In the event that you are leaving the family home, you should take with you any items of particular importance to you. You don’t yet know how relations between you and your spouse will be in a few weeks or months time, so this may be the only chance you get to claim these possessions.

Other Assets

Recent case law suggests that couples are more likely to get half of the proceeds of the divorce than before. Previously, marital assets were divided on the basis of what each party had contributed to the marriage. (For ‘non-marital assets and their definition, see the relevant article elsewhere on this site.) In general, the person who has care of the children will get a bigger slice of the shared assets.

The Best Way to Divide Assets

When it comes to having to apportion ownership of your marital assets, there are some fundamental things that you can do to ensure that it goes smoothly:
  • make sure you have as much information on your joint assets as you can. This means accumulating copies of receipts, agreements, and other proof of ownership documents. You would be surprised how ‘forgetful’ former spouses become when faced with splitting ownership of assets.
  • make a list of everything you and your spouse own, and leave space for two further columns. In the next column, give an estimation of value. In the last column, put whether it is yours, your spouse’s, or shared.
  • Have a list of all your income and outgoings, to demonstrate any shortfall. The lower your income is, and the higher your outgoings, the greater your share of the proportion of assets.
  • if one person is going to remain in the home, you need to ensure that you have an up to date valuation of the property. It is highly advisable to get three separate valuations from estate agents and use the average from those amounts.
  • It may help to write a chronology of your marriage and a timeline to show what you were doing at each stage, particularly if you haven’t worked during the marriage or sacrificed your career to bring up children. Recording events such as part time work, having children, and moving home all show your non-financial contributions to the marriage.

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[Add a Comment]
MP - Your Question:
After 18 years of marriage I moved out of the family home leaving my wife and 10 year old daughter. 2 and half years on I am still paying the interest only mortgage but getting ready to move in with my new partner. Not yet divorced but want to come off the mortgage. told I have a responsibility to put a roof over my daughters head but surely we both do? I don't want any money from the house and just want to be off the payment side. can I do this?

Our Response:
You can only release yourself from the mortgage if your ex can afford to buy you out. Your commitment here is to the lender.
DivorceResource - 9-Aug-18 @ 11:09 AM
After 18 years of marriage I moved out of the family home leaving my wife and 10 year old daughter. 2 and half years on I am still paying the interest only mortgage but getting ready to move in with my new partner. Not yet divorced but want to come off the mortgage. told I have a responsibility to put a roof over my daughters head but surely we both do? I don't want any money from the house and just want to be off the payment side. can I do this?
MP - 8-Aug-18 @ 1:18 PM
The house was in my name he once had a sml declaration of trust but he took it off.we have split up he wants 7000 pounds in settlement. How is good to do this.please.And does he have to sign as well to make it legal as solicitor daid he cant be there as well.
Jen - 21-Jun-18 @ 10:51 AM
Boomer - Your Question:
I moved out of our family home 7 years ago leaving my wife and children in the family home. We purchase the home together and had a joint morgage then 12 years in it was remortgaged just in her name. So when I left it was Is in her name. She asked me for a devoice and I said ok but the house will need to be sold. She did want that so I said I was happy for there to stay and not yo get a devoice on the condition that if she did want to move or remarry then I would get 50% of the equity. Iv just discover she sold the house last year and has run of with the money. I'm not sure if she has commited a crime and I should contact the police or what I should do. At the end of the day as we are still married the house is a marriable asset.any advice please

Our Response:
You would need to seek professional legal advice. If you were still married, then you would have been able to claim some of the equity, as regardless of whose name the house was in, it would still be considered as being jointly owned and part of the financial marriage pot.
DivorceResource - 17-Nov-17 @ 1:45 PM
I moved out of our family home 7 years ago leaving my wife and children in the family home. We purchase the home together andhad a joint morgage then 12 years in it was remortgaged just in her name. So when I left it was Is in her name. She asked me for a devoice and I said ok but the house will need to be sold. She did want that so I said I was happy for there to stay and not yo get a devoice on the condition that if she did want to move or remarry then I would get 50% of the equity. Iv just discover she sold the house last year and has run of with the money. I'm not sure if she has commited a crime and I should contact the police or what I should do. At the end of the day as we are still married the house is a marriable asset..any advice please
Boomer - 14-Nov-17 @ 7:33 PM
My husband and I separated in March 2015, I remained in the family home with the children while he left and rented a property and we split the childcare between us (the children stopped with him for 3 nights a week on average). During spring 2016 I decided that as I could not afford to buy him out of the family home and we had approx £200k equity in it that I would look at the possibility of buying somewhere else on my own, if he was to buy me out with a 50/50 split of equity. I have since bought a property in my name with a help to buy loan and £100k equity buy out from my husband. He has now moved back into the former family home and re-mortgaged the house solely in his name, he currently earns approx 4 x what I do so could afford to do this). All this was done without sny legal advice and now as we are fast approaching the 2 year separation period and are able to file for divorce I wanted advice on whether I can claim anything in regards to his quite considerable pension? I gave up my 'career' in order to look after our 2 children, while he remained at work and climbed the career ladder. I have returned to employment since our separation but only work 3 days a week due to the high cost of childcare etc. I have a small pension, but nothing I could rely upon on retirement due to my current earning potential and being a 'full time mum' for the last 5 years. Obviously as we are still married I would imagine both our property's would now be considered as marital assets?
Confused.com - 6-Jan-17 @ 5:07 PM
Butterfly - Your Question:
My husband and I want a simple clean amicable divorce. He is happy for me to have the house and contents and I am happy to make no claim on his pension. We don't want to spend lots of money on solicitors and want to ensure we both have a clean break. What is the best way to do this ? I am able to remortgage my house because of my high earnings. Any help would be much appreciated.

Our Response:
Mediation may be the best way forward here as while it will be negotiated between yourselves it will ensure you tick all the boxes required. Plus it will be authorised by the courts and give you the clean break you need. While it will cost (not as much as court), it might be worth you paying for this to ensure peace of mind.
DivorceResource - 18-May-16 @ 3:10 PM
My husband and I want a simple clean amicable divorce. He is happy for me to have the house and contents and I am happy to make no claim on his pension. We don't want to spend lots of money on solicitors and want to ensure we both have a clean break. What is the best way to do this ? I am able to remortgage my house because of my high earnings. Any help would be much appreciated.
Butterfly - 18-May-16 @ 11:42 AM
Razor - Your Question:
Been split up from wife for 3 years. 1child nearly 19. Been offered £5000 amicable settlement as neither can afford to buy the other out. Not divorced. We owe about £115, 000 on house. Worth around £250, 000.Can't afford a solicitor but unsure what to do. Any advice would be great. Thanks.

Our Response:
It doesn't seem a very even split. If your child is 19, you may be able to force the sale of the property. This is done by applying for a court order that would in effect allow for the property to be sold, and would provide a timescale within which it should be sold. I suggest seeking legal advice in order to assess your options.
DivorceResource - 24-Mar-16 @ 11:43 AM
Been split up from wife for 3 years. 1child nearly 19. Been offered £5000 amicable settlement as neither can afford to buy the other out. Not divorced. We owe about £115, 000 on house. Worth around £250, 000. Can't afford a solicitor but unsure what to do. Any advice would be great. Thanks.
Razor - 23-Mar-16 @ 2:01 PM
My wife and I separated 10 years ago.My partner and I have been together for 5 years and want to get married, so I'm wanting to get a divorce. I bought my wife out of the house 8 years ago. Is she still entitled to anything on the sale of the house if she is no longer on the mortgage?
Jumble - 23-Oct-15 @ 3:28 PM
I have just bought a bungalow cash with my husband and tried to get on with him but it's not working I'm leaving the home we are joint owners and I want to know do I have to divorce him to get half the property.
Scooby - 20-Jul-15 @ 2:45 PM
left ex over four years ago still paying mortgage on house. can't afford it. im not living in it and want to getmy own house. plus remortgaged house to get taxi. sold taxi do i need to give ex half .x
jo - 7-Jul-15 @ 11:28 PM
@Kalajay -When considering how to divide your civil partnership property the court will consider all the circumstances of your case and the welfare needs of any children of the family who are under 18. The court will then consider: the income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources that each partner has or is likely to have in the future. Plus the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities that each civil partner has or is likely to have in the future. The standard of living enjoyed by your family before the breakdown of your civil partnership. Your ages and the length of your civil partnership (this may include any periods of unbroken cohabitation before you entered into your civil partnership). Any physical or mental disability that you or your civil partner has. The contributions that you and your civil partner has made or is likely to make to the welfare of the family. You really need to take legal advice though. I hope this helps and you manage to sort it out.
DivorceResource - 28-Oct-14 @ 3:08 PM
I need advice. I want to dissolve my civil partnership through domestic and verbal violence over 7 years. The house is in my name. My ex has pack a right of interest against the house so I can do nothing about selling it without her concent. She has said she can force the sale of the house as well if I don't sell.? Is this true. I want to go home but can't as she is there. I want my home back can she really take it from me after everything she has done Please help
Kalajay - 27-Oct-14 @ 8:24 PM
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