Divorce and property – what are your options

Selling a house after a divorce or relationship breakdown is likely to be a difficult and emotional experience. Even if you and your former partner are separating on amicable terms, divorce and property is notoriously stressful. If there has been a breakdown in communication, the sale may present a range of additional challenges. This useful guide will help you understand the process and consider what your options might be.

selling house after divorce

Divorce and property – What are my options?

Going through a divorce or relationship breakdown can be deeply upsetting. This upset is often exacerbated by finalising the separation of joint assets.

The marital home is often the largest joint asset. This means many divorcing or separating couples will need to sell in order to complete the dissolution of the relationship.

How you and your ex-partner split your assets after a divorce can often be decided without a solicitor, if things are amicable between you.

There are a few possible options to consider when it comes to working out what to do with the house in a divorce:

Keeping your home after divorce

Depending on the circumstances of your separation, it may be that you choose not to change the legal or financial status of the house, even if one of you decides to move out. This could be the case if you have children nearing 18 who will be leaving shortly for college or university.

Alternatively, if you don’t think it’s a good time to sell, you could consider renting it out.  This would, however, keep you tied to your ex-partner until you choose to sell the property. You would also need to speak to your mortgage lender to enquire about the possibility of changing your mortgage product. To rent your property out, you would need to transfer to a buy-to-let mortgage.

Mediation can be a valuable service if you choose to continue jointly owning the property or if you need help with dividing your assets. You can find a local mediator on the Family Mediation Council website.

Selling your house after divorce

If you both, amicably, decide that selling is the best decision, there are several options for you to consider.  Selling with an estate agent will get you the highest price, but timescales are unpredictable.  If you want a quicker sale, you could explore property auction or home buying companies.

Once you’ve sold the property, the money will be divided between you. Whether it’s a 50-50 split or a different arrangement will depend on your circumstances and any prior agreement.

Buying your ex out of the house

If one partner from a marriage wants to remain in the home, there is the option of buying your ex out. Whether or not this is possible will depend on your financial circumstances. Speak to your lender as soon as you can to find out what your options are.

Whichever option you decide is right for you and your situation, it’s important that you try to reach a voluntary agreement. If both parties cannot agree on a way forward, you will have to go to court. This is likely to result in neither party getting the result they had hoped for. Getting a court order to sell a house after divorce will also have additional cost and time implications.

Should I sell my house after divorce?

Whether you should sell your house after divorce will depend on your personal circumstances.

Reasons to sell:

  • You need to sell to be able to divide financial assets
  • It would be difficult for you to afford ongoing property costs
  • You would like a fresh start

Reasons to keep property:

  • Keeping the home could offer stability and familiarity after the disruption of a relationship breakdown
  • Staying in the same property may offer continuity for any children you may have – it would allow them to remain in the same schools etc.
  • Keeping the property would allow you to remain close to any friends and family in the area

Is it better to sell your house before or after divorce?

If you can come to an amicable decision to sell the property and agree on how any profits should be split, selling a property before getting divorced can make the whole process simpler. Where there is a disagreement about the sale or how proceeds will be divided, it may be better to wait. The divorce agreement will outline what will happen with any property as part of the division of assets

Who is responsible for the mortgage during a divorce?

If both your names are on the mortgage agreement, you are both jointly responsible for the mortgage payments. You must both continue to make payments, as usual. This will continue until the mortgage is transferred into one name or the property is sold.

Who gets the house in a divorce if I go to court?

If you and your ex-partner are unable to reach an agreement, you can obtain a financial remedy order from the court.  This means the judge will decide the outcome of your shared assets.

Before applying to court, you will need to attend mediation sessions through a legal representative. The only exception to this is if you are a victim of domestic abuse or social services have been involved.  In these circumstances you would be allowed to apply directly to the court.

A financial remedy order, also known as an ‘ancillary relief order’, allows you to challenge your ex-partner and settle your financial disputes. If you cannot reach a voluntary agreement, a financial remedy order may enable you to:

  • Gain ownership of the marital home
  • Get a lump sum payment
  • Get a regular payment plan set up to help with childcare and living costs
  • Gain a share of your ex-partners pension

There are many factors that will influence a judge’s decision on a settlement. The biggest consideration will be children. A judge will usually award property ownership to the primary caregiver. If there are no children to consider, other factors such as age, ability to earn and length of marriage are taken in account before a settlement is agreed. 

It’s worth noting that a financial remedy order from court can take between 6 and 12 months to finalise.

Divorce and children – putting the family first

When going through a divorce or separation, it’s important to place your family at the heart of all discussions. What will be best for any children involved?

You should keep up with mortgage repayments in order to protect the house from repossession. If the change in your circumstances has made it difficult to keep up with necessary payments, contact your lender immediately.

In what circumstances can you force a house sale?

If one of you wants to sell the property and the other doesn’t, the party who wants to sell will need to apply for an order for sale through the court system. A judge will look at the evidence provided and the argument for forcing a sale. They will decide on one of the following outcomes:

  • The sale is refused
  • Sale is refused but other conditions are put in place eg. both partners have a right to remain in the property
  • The sale is granted
  • Sale is granted but with a delay or conditions eg. property cannot be sold until the youngest child reaches 18

Whether a judge grants an order for sale will depend on the evidence presented and each case will be dealt with on its individual merits.

How is a house divided in a divorce?

How a house is divided in a divorce will depend on your individual circumstances.

Any legal division of marital assets will take into account:

  • Whether any children live at the property
  • Any financial agreements that were put in place when the property was purchased

Ways to sell your house after divorce

It’s natural to want to sell a shared house quickly to enable you to move on with your life. However, the traditional home selling process can be slow and may not be the best option for you.

If you both agree to sell the property, these questions may help you get started:

  • How much is the house worth?
  • Will we use a high street estate agent?
  • Should we take the property to auction?
  • Should we contact a house buying company to see what they offer?

As a starting point, you need to have an idea of how much your house is worth.  In the event either party disputes the valuation, a court may order a local surveyor or estate agent to carry out an additional valuation.

Decide on the method of sale

Selling on the open market with an estate agent

Selling with an estate agent will enable you to achieve the highest price for your property, but the timescales are unpredictable. Recent data suggests that you can expect your property to be on the market for an average of 115 days before you accept an offer, and the government’s website advises that it takes an average of 8-12 weeks to complete a sale once an offer has been accepted.  This means it takes, on average, a total of 5-7 months to sell a house on the open market.

Selling on the open market with an online estate agent

You can often sell your house more cheaply with an online estate agent, but they don’t always have the same level of local knowledge and may offer a less comprehensive service (eg. you may be expected to conduct your own property viewings). 

Selling your house at auction

Auction is a quicker option than selling via an estate agent, and it can work well for some, but it’s important to note that there is no guarantee that your property will sell at auction and properties usually sell for less than market value.  If your property fails to meet its reserve price, and therefore doesn’t sell, it can be difficult to attract buyers on the open market afterwards. The auction house will market your property for around a month before the auction takes place. The sale will then need to complete within 28 days. If your property successfully sells at auction it is likely to take around 2 months.

Selling your house to a professional home buyer

A professional cash home buyer can offer you a quick and guaranteed sale, but you will need to be willing to accept less than market value for the property.  The real benefit of selling to a professional home buyer is that you can complete the sale on a date of your choice, often in as little as 7 days if necessary.

How to sell your house quickly after divorce?

A genuine cash home buyer can offer a speed and certainty that cannot be unmatched by any other method of sale. This is an ideal option if you’re looking for a quick house sale after divorce.

You can find out how much a home buying company would pay for your property by calling Quick Move Now’s friendly team on 0800 086 3366. Alternatively, complete an online form to get a free, no obligation cash offer today.

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