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Matrimonial Home: What Are My Rights?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 8 Jun 2018 |
 
Marriage Divorce Maintenance Payment

Q.

My wife has told me she wants to separate after 5 years of marriage and move into rented accommodation. When I met her she moved into my house and not long after started maternity leave. Sadly, our son was born with a disability and she therefore hasn't worked since he was born. She receives approx £500 per month carer's allowance plus other usual benefits.

The matrimonial home is in my sole name and I have therefore paid the mortgage, bills and generally maintained the property in good order. I'm devastated she has made this decision but now need to know where I stand legally regarding the house and spousal maintenance.

Obviously, I have no issues whatsoever with regard to maintenance for my child, and am more than happy to pay this and still want to be a part of his life.

Any advice please.

(JB, 13 April 2010)

A.

I am sorry to hear that your wife has decided that your marriage is over. I note what you say about the fact that the property (which lawyers call the FMH or Former Matrimonial Home) is and always has been in your sole name. This does not necessarily mean that your wife would not have a claim to some share in the equity in the property. While it is right that your wife has not contributed financially to the property, she has managed the household for the time that you have been married and, most importantly, brought up your disabled son. The law recognises in marriage and other partnerships that while one person might be the breadwinner the other spouse contributes to the marriage in other non-financial ways.

Maintenance Payments

While you mention that your wife is currently in receipt of carer's allowance and other benefits, you do not mention whether you are paying her anything by way of maintenance at the moment. Although recent events will have been understandably upsetting for you, it does sound as though you and your wife are reasonably amicable about your separation. If you can both agree on terms for Maintenance Payments for your son, and any other financial arrangements, you and your wife may have a relatively straightforward divorce.

The Law

Of course, you should be aware that your wife may go to a solicitor at any time and be advised independently as to her legal options. I do not know your financial circumstances but her lawyer may advise her that she is entitled to a share of the equity in the family home. At this point you may want to consider your own circumstances. Would you be in a position to offer her a lump sum? Have you and your wife talked at all about making provision for your son or any maintenance payments for your wife? Would you be prepared to make any kind of offer?

Your Wife’s Rights to the Property

Similarly, your wife could register an interest in the property at the Land Registry, which would mean you could not take a secured loan against or sell your home without her permission. This is quite commonplace in situations in which the marital home is in one person’s name only.

I’ve tried to outline basic principles here, but my advice to you is to go and see a family solicitor asap. You don’t need to tell your wife that you’re consulting a lawyer, but could just find out what your options are at this stage. Good luck.

Check out our expert's answer to when an ex changes the locks on a jointly owned property.

Check out the Separated Dads Forum... It's a great resource where you can ask for advice on topics including Child Access, Maintenance, CAFCASS, Fathers Rights, Court, Behaviour or simply to have a chat with other dads.

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Softy - Your Question:
Wife came home from months holiday and announced she was leaving, shocked I asked why her reason she said she wanted a life. She went to stay with female friend she met on holiday she is now coming back to put the house up for sale the house is in joint names I am registered disabled and our son 18 has autism who goes to collage for young people who have had learning problems. Can my wife just come and sell the house or can I say no as we will be homeless or at least until my son and I find a suitable place to rent which could mean moving out of the area leaving our eldest son again with multiple difficulty's including autism whom we got settled in a flat near by who we help with his budgeting and shopping and day to day living. His dependence is our goal but being near gives him more confidence and any problems can be sorted quickly without him becoming unable to cope resulting in him having a melt down. We've Been together 33years 23 years married. Desperate for info

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. If you don't agree to the sale, your only option is to refuse and either suggest mediation as a way of trying to resolve the issue, please see link here. Or allow your wife to take the matter to court (as a last resort). In certain cases, a court can allow the primary carer of your child (i.e you) to remain in the house while your son is in full-time education. The CAB link here should help answer your question further. Also, our Separated Dads forum can give you guidance and advice. The main issue here is for you not to feel pressurised and forced into having to make a decision. You do not have to move out and you do not have to agree to your wife's demands. Deciding what is in the best interests of your son should be your mutual priority first and foremost. It is better for you and your wife to work together towards a mutual conclusion.
SeparatedDads - 8-Jun-18 @ 10:03 AM
Such a shame for her What is the world coming to, you applaud someone who has been looked after adoredand loved, then when sons benefits run dry takes off and doesn't care where or what happens to those who loved unconditionally. A month on holiday at whose expense, not hers as she could not of cared for any of them?
Softy - 7-Jun-18 @ 7:05 PM
@softy .Oh this is sad that poor poor disabled man sounds like you come of the closet .and your poor disabled son can’t process because of his learning disabilities.but it’s all good you have a life now with your girlfriend .i am sure your son will come to understand .my advice don’t worry about your ex I hear there is a lot action at the endeavour if wants to meet someone .
Creamy - 7-Jun-18 @ 3:12 PM
Wife came home from months holiday and announced she was leaving, shocked I asked whyher reason she said she wanted a life. She went to stay with female friend she met on holiday she is now coming back to put the house up for sale the house is in joint names I am registered disabledand our son 18 has autism who goes to collage for young people who have had learning problems. Can my wife just come and sell the house or can I say no as we will be homeless or at least until my son and I find a suitable place to rent which could mean moving out of the area leaving our eldest son again with multiple difficulty's including autism whom we got settled in a flat near by who we help with his budgetingand shopping and day to day living. His dependenceis our goal but being near gives him more confidence and any problems can be sorted quickly without him becoming unable to cope resulting in him having a melt down. We've Been together 33years23 years married. Desperate for info
Softy - 7-Jun-18 @ 1:40 PM
Hi I have been with my husband for four and a half years and married for four of those, this coming June. We bought a house at the beginning of our marriage. He put a 75% deposit down and I took on the payments for the remaining mortgage - everything is in this name. I have earned a high salary since we got married and he earns quite well. He is 60, I am almost 50. I am a self employed contractor. He is employed. I also paid £20,000 on house renovations which has clearly increased the value of the house. I have paid for all of our family holidays (our kids are from previous marriages) and most of our wedding. He is quite frugal and so most of my money has been used for our lifestyle costs. The house has increased by £125,000 in the time we have lived there (three years). What am I entitled to? He says very little, as the house is all in his name.
Juls1 - 5-Jun-18 @ 1:50 PM
Married for 17 years,we have lived in 3 different houses in that time no mortgagebut my wife cotributed the most to the first house ,I paid all the legal fees .It was agreed she would have the house in her name ,we have no children together.All through our married life she did not work and I pad all the bills ,eating out ,holidys etc .We divorced on 26 October 2017 but I had been forcibly removed from our house by the police ,who apologized the next day but said they could not do anything as my wife had now made it a civil matter .Since then until recently I had been of nfabut now live in a housing association flat and have no job and as I worked from homeat my marital have been unable to get on my feet .Iam 60 my wife is 70 years old and I have now approached the courts to make a judgement re a settlementas I know I am entitled to 40 percent of the sale price but I will accepta lower figure as I want to get on with my life .My wife and her solicitors have made me out to be a no good layabout which Idefinitely am not and I despise her for this .The court case is soon and I cannot afford a solicitor ,she will no doubt have a Barrister and I am hoping to cut a deal prior.This has gone on a long time and any advicewould be very helpful
Lester - 26-May-18 @ 6:13 PM
Disappointed - Your Question:
Marriage lasted six years. Ex and kids allowed to live in property so long as mortgage paid (at a very low rate way below rental value) and it remain family home. Divorced and 25 years later ex claims it's hers even though not in her name and purchased prior to marriage. She does not want kids to inherit anything what rights does a dad with a kind heart have. He lives in tiny rented property and wants to safeguard kids inheritance.

Our Response:
If your ex has paid for the property for 25 years, regardless of whether it was considered a pre-marital asset, it is unlikely you would have much say in the matter, unless you had owned it for a considerable time prior to marriage, and/or invested financially in it. You don't say whether your name is still on the deeds. If so, you may wish to seek some legal advice, as any such dispute would have to be resolved through arbitration or court.
SeparatedDads - 18-May-18 @ 2:18 PM
Marriage lasted six years. Ex and kids allowed to live in property so long as mortgage paid (at a very low rate way below rental value) and it remain family home. Divorced and 25 years later ex claims it's hers even though not in her name and purchased prior to marriage. She does not want kids to inherit anything what rights does a dad with a kind heart have. He lives in tiny rented property and wants to safeguard kids inheritance.
Disappointed - 17-May-18 @ 3:09 PM
Doc - Your Question:
I have been married just over 3 years.the wife asked me to leave her name is on everything.lived together total over 7 years.shes reluctant in handing over house hold goods just my belongings. We have a daughter together I had to take her to court to gain access over nights and still on going.question am I dentitled to anything as I was contributing for so long but married short time.

Our Response:
If your ex is the resident carer of your child, then it is unlikely you would be able to force your wife to sell the house if she and your child are residing there and can afford to make payments on rent/mortgage. If your wife does not agree to allowing you anything you own, then your only option would be to apply to court. However, you may wish to seek legal advice first in order to see whether you would have a case and whether it is worth taking the matter further. Much depends upon what you put into the relationship financially prior to and post marriage.
SeparatedDads - 14-May-18 @ 3:04 PM
I have been married just over 3 years .the wife asked me to leave her name is on everything .lived together total over 7 years.shes reluctant in handing over house hold goods just my belongings. We have a daughter together i had to take her to court to gain access over nights and still on going .question am i dentitled to anything as i was contributing for so long but married short time .
Doc - 11-May-18 @ 12:24 PM
My mother left my father 29 years ago and has not stepped foot in the house since, she has not contributed anything to the house in all this time.Unfortunately both there names have always been on the house but it was always known that my youngest sibling would get the house but now she forcing my dad to sell the house so she can get half themoney.They never got divorced.Is she entitled to anything.She lives in a different country than him also.
irishtenor - 4-May-18 @ 4:59 PM
Rogerio07 - Your Question:
Married year ago now wife says she don't want it she's 72 I'm 70 she's been married twice before with children from those marriages.they are against our marriage and have caused alot of problems for us mainly over there mums will over lots of money and property she has.The house we live in here I pay towards bills etc plus do lots of work on the house at no labour cost to my wifeMy main worry is that once divorced I will have "nowhere to live" can I claim anything from my wife in anyway?? I left a flat that was under sheltered scheme could of live there for the rest of my life.,before i.met my wife in 2015.what's my situation legally please

Our Response:
You would have to seek legal advice. You can either come to a mutual agreement between you or seek legal advice regarding taking the matter to court. The fact the marriage has been short will mean you would be entitled to less than if the marriage had lasted. A solicitor will tell you what sort of claim you have dependent upon your circumstances and needs.
SeparatedDads - 26-Apr-18 @ 3:28 PM
Gill - Your Question:
I have a friend whom I'm trying to find information for him but finding it hard. His wife has just left the family home with their child 3 weeks ago. In that time she has put claim to the house, said she wants a divorce and in those 3 weeks had let my friend see their child once and refused any contact at all. She is now refusing to answer her phone or reply to messages regarding the child. How can this happen? Is there anything he can do?

Our Response:
I am sorry to hear this. In the first instance, your friend should go through the motions laid out in the article here and here if he wishes to gain access of his child. With regards to the house, then his wife will have a claim on the house. The CAB article here will help answer your question further.
SeparatedDads - 26-Apr-18 @ 10:35 AM
Married year ago now wife says she don't want it she's 72 I'm 70 she's been married twice before with children from those marriages.they are against our marriage and have caused alot of problems for us mainly over there mums will over lots of money and property she has. The house we live inhere Ipay towards bills etc plus do lots of work on the house at no labour cost to my wife My main worry is that once divorced I will have "nowhere to live" can I claim anything from my wife in anyway?? I left a flat that was under sheltered scheme could of live there for the rest of my life..,before i.met my wife in 2015 ..what's my situation legally please
Rogerio07 - 26-Apr-18 @ 4:09 AM
I have a friend whom I'm trying to find information for him but finding it hard. His wife has just left the family home with their child 3 weeks ago. In that time she has put claim to the house, said she wants a divorce and in those 3 weeks had let my friend see their child once and refused any contact at all. She is now refusing to answer her phone or reply to messages regarding the child. How can this happen? Is there anything he can do?
Gill - 25-Apr-18 @ 1:17 PM
@Donna - easy - just change the locks and if he tries to break in report him to the police for harassment.
GenBe - 10-Apr-18 @ 12:46 PM
I have been divorced for 10 years was married only 3 years.. 2 children 1 aged 17 not in education n 1 14 still in education ( both his children) i also have a 4 yr old ( not his from a brief relstionship) as i work part time becausebof the children i have never been able to take on the mortgage by myself so it is still jointly owned. He is now threatening to come n go whenever he pleases as he owns half the house and its his legal right, this makes me uneasy & scared. Can he do this after 10years? He doesnt contribute to the kids money wise but pays a quarter of the mortgage he has never paid half ( not paid anything tho the last 3 months) i did agree to sell if he contributed to half of the up keep but hes refused saying its my responsibility but i know its both. Ive lived here for 13 years n nothing has ever been done so things are run down. Where do i stand? Someone help me.
Donna - 9-Apr-18 @ 11:51 PM
@steve - it is highly improbable she could make a claim now as you would be able to prove that an agreement was made between you.
Laurie - 27-Feb-18 @ 4:06 PM
Annie - Your Question:
My husband and I’ve in Manchester we bought a second home nearby to remodel which too 3 years. While I was in hospital my husband asked me to sign the house over to his name as I was I’ll and he said it was easier if he needed to take a loan out for remodelling. A year later the house was done and I’m back to normal. He said the house was taking a while to sell but I found a letter saying house has been sold and he has put the money into another account I didn’t know about without my knowledge. We are married with no children have been for 15 years I think he is getting ready to leave hence the reason for trying to hid the assets. What can I do about this?

Our Response:
You would need to seek legal advice, only a court can help resolve this matter.If your ex is found to have tried to sideline finances and/or deprive you of the share of a marital asset, the courts will take this seriously.
SeparatedDads - 22-Feb-18 @ 11:23 AM
My husband and I’ve in Manchester we bought a second home nearby to remodel which too 3 years. While I was in hospital my husband asked me to sign the house over to his name as I was I’ll and he said it was easier if he needed to take a loan out for remodelling. A year later the house was done and I’m back to normal. He said the house was taking a while to sell but I found a letter saying house has been sold and he has put the money into another account I didn’t know about without my knowledge . We are married with no children have been for 15 years I think he is getting ready to leave hence the reason for trying to hid the assets. What can I do about this?
Annie - 21-Feb-18 @ 8:37 AM
Certa Ceta - Your Question:
We have been married for 35 years. We have no children from the marriage. However, my wife has one adult child from a previous marriage and I have three adult children from a previous marriage. Although I provided the deposit and have paid the mortgage (completed) and all the utility bills for the entire time of our marriage the marital home is in my wife's sole name. She is refusing to return our home to joint ownership. I fear she intends to disinherit my children and leave all to her daughter, when I die. I am nine years older than my wife and in poor health. How can I ensure all the children from our previous marriages get equal shares? Without risking my wife becoming homeless.

Our Response:
Your only option would be to apply to court, if you cannot resolve this issue between yourselves.
SeparatedDads - 20-Feb-18 @ 3:04 PM
We have been married for 35 years. We have no children from the marriage. However, my wife has one adult child from a previous marriage and Ihave three adult children from a previous marriage. Although I provided the deposit and have paid the mortgage (completed) and all the utility bills for the entire time of our marriage the marital home is in my wife's sole name. She is refusing to return our home to joint ownership. I fear she intends to disinherit my children and leave all to her daughter, when I die. I am nine years older than my wife and in poor health. How can I ensure all the children from our previous marriages get equal shares? Without risking my wife becoming homeless.
Certa Ceta - 20-Feb-18 @ 5:11 AM
I separated from ex partner(not married) 3 years ago we have 2 children and we did have a joint mortgage together. when we split up she didn't want the house so i brought her out via a solicitor, land registry and the mortgage company. so now the house is solely in my name. my question is, is there any way that my ex could have claim to my property even though she legally took payment for her share of the property and was removed from mortgage and deeds of property?
steve - 16-Feb-18 @ 4:07 PM
giggs - Your Question:
I moved out of our house, and have been renting for 3 years now. We were married for 3 years, with the house in both our names. As I was earning more, I paid for the mortgage and bills (and put down the deposit too with my life savings). I feel that my ex is looking for more money than she contributed, and cannot see past the fact that the mortgage is very cheap, whilst I am continuing to pay 'dead' rental money. As there is only maybe 60k equity in the house, should I just settle for 50-50% split? I feel that there will be problems just round the corner too, as I'm sure the bank wont allow us to have just her name on it, with a low salary

Our Response:
You don't say whether you have children together or not. If you do, then you are looking at a more even split, if your ex agrees to sell. Otherwise, a court may allow her to remain in the house if she is the primary carer of your children. However, if you have no children and the marriage has been short, then you may be entitled to request your deposit back as it could be considered non-marital. At the same time, you might just wish to come to an agreement that suits you both and which you can agree to without having to pay legal professionals to sort it out in court. You may wish to seek legal/professional advice though in order to fully explore your options.
SeparatedDads - 2-Feb-18 @ 1:56 PM
I moved out of our house, and have been renting for 3 years now. We were married for 3 years, with the house in both our names. As I was earning more, I paid for the mortgage and bills (and put down the deposit too with my life savings). I feel that my ex is looking for more money than she contributed, and cannot see past the fact that the mortgage is very cheap, whilst I am continuing to pay 'dead' rental money. As there is only maybe 60k equity in the house, should I just settle for 50-50% split? I feel that there will be problems just round the corner too, as I'm sure the bank wont allow us to have just her name on it, with a low salary
giggs - 31-Jan-18 @ 10:40 PM
Hi I'm divorced but I still have a house with a joint mortgage with my ex. It's in negative equity and she has not paid anything for 6 years. Where do I stand? I want to get rid of it but feel I'm stuck and she thinks she is entitled to money when I sell it!
Baz - 28-Jan-18 @ 6:18 AM
@Johny1977 - you can counter-sue! As you could have a claim on her house, especially if you put money into it for refurbishment and paid the mortgage. If the marriage was short (under five years) then she has little claim, unless you have kids. If you take the matter to court though, any money that you both could have will go into the solicitor's pockets, so keep out of court if you can. But by the sounds of it, she doesn't have a leg to stand on and is just being plain greedy. Seek legal advice and ask a solicitor to send an equally as damning letter. Then she might back off.
CharlieVF - 25-Jan-18 @ 3:52 PM
My wife committed adultery after 5 months of marriage and we are now in the process of divorce. We purchased a house a year before we got married and lived In it for 5 months as a married couple until I found out she was commiting adultery at which point she left and stopped paying anything towards the mortgage or the upkeep. I put in a much higher deposit to the house and now she is coming after half of the equity... is this allowed? She also has her own house that she kept and I paid more of the mortgage on the joint house to enable her to do this as well as paying for large renovations in the house before we were married. Where do I stand with what she is entitled to as it does not seem in anyway fair that she can contribute so little and expect to take so much after she walked out on the marriage after such a short time.
Johny1977 - 23-Jan-18 @ 10:24 PM
Sam - Your Question:
My wife and I have been separated for 6 years but not divorced. I am now ready for devorce. Will she be entitled to my pension and the assets that I have accrued during the separation period? I have been paying mentainance for our 2 kids for the 6 years.

Our Response:
Your wife may be entitled to a share of your pension. But she will not be entitled to assets you have accrued during the separation period, unless joint money has been used to fund those assets. Mediation may help you to come to a mutual decision, please see link here.
SeparatedDads - 23-Jan-18 @ 10:13 AM
My wife and I have been separated for 6 years but not divorced. I am now ready for devorce. Will she be entitled to my pension and the assets that I have accrued during the separation period? I have been paying mentainance for our 2 kids for the 6 years.
Sam - 22-Jan-18 @ 12:34 PM
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