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Divorce: Does It Matter Who Owns The Home?


I am a family divorce lawyer and mediator at Hopkin Murray Beskine Solicitors and I am writing here about how assets including the family home are divided if you split up.

If you are divorcing you might wonder whether you have a right to a share of the family home or any other asset if it is not in your name. Conversely, if property is in your name does it mean it stays yours in divorce?

The answer will depend very much on the facts from case to case.  However, there are some general principles.

The court is interested to know if your assets are ‘matrimonial’ or ‘non-matrimonial’.  If property is matrimonial the Court uses the “sharing principle” which results in these assets being divided between the husband and wife, though not necessarily equally.  Non-matrimonial assets are not divided in the same way.  The idea of matrimonial property is that it is accrued in the marriage by the contribution of both of you to the relationship, not necessarily both of you putting in the same amounts of money or looking after the children equally, but generally contributing.

Non-matrimonial property is often put in by one partner without an equal amount put in by the other for example, a lottery win or a house you owned before you got married.  However, the longer your marriage, the less any property is kept separate and the more it “mingles” then the more likely it will be seen as matrimonial. To put it the other way, the more it is kept separate, and the shorter the marriage, the more likely it will be treated as non-matrimonial.  So if you used an inheritance to buy a house, which later became a family and matrimonial home that you have lived in during a 20 year marriage, it is very likely that this would be seen as matrimonial property.  One method of trying to keep things separate is to use a pre-nuptial agreement.

The right to live in the home is not the same thing as the right to a share of its value.  As long as you remain married, both husband and wife have the right to live in the family home no matter who legally owns it.  This right can be changed by the Court. A spouse’s freedom to live or go into the house can be limited, most commonly if there have been issued involving violence or harm.

What does this mean if your family home is not in your name?  The family home and contents in most cases are seen as matrimonial property.  If only one person contributed towards it or if it is in the name of only one person but it is a long marriage it would almost always still be seen as matrimonial property.  Also, just because something is not in your name, doesn’t mean it won’t be shared with you.

If you have any questions or queries about this article or any of my other articles all of which are on our website www.hmbsolicitors.co.uk., please feel free to email me on sb@hmbsolicitors.co.uk. If there are any particular issues that any readers would like to ask please feel free to email me.

Sarah Beskine

Specialist Family Lawyer and Mediator

About Sarah Beskine (45 Articles)
I offer help and advice as a specialist in the field of family law whether you are seeking help with divorce, separation or conflicts regarding children’s disputes.