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Matrimonial Home: What Are My Rights?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 17 Aug 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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[Add a Comment]
Pepe - Your Question:
HiMy wife and me are separating, (divorcing), after 17 years of marriage and 21 years of cohabiting in a" house on her name".At the start I use to give her my other place's rent money, £180 a month, then we got joint accounts and all expenses were shared. Soon after that I was paying for most of the bills and transferring to my wife's account £600 a month to help with mortgage and house related bills(all utility bills are under her name, she would never change anything).What are my rights when we divorce, regarding the money I have paid towards the mortgage? I don't want to walk away empty handed. We have had separate bedrooms for 6 years, and I intend to give her more money that the law requires for the children (12 and 15) maintenance.I seriously need some advice, all stuff on internet confusing.I have printed and need to send a Land Registry HR1 form. Is that right?Many thanks in advance.PS Happy to share my story, but can you also reply to my email, please?

Our Response:
If your children are under the age of 18, then it's likely a court would allow your children to remain with your wife in the house (if she is the primary carer). However, as the marriage has been a long one, you would be entitled to a split of the property regardless of who contributed financially to the marriage (as all finances and assets are considered jointly owned in marriage). You can see more via the link here, which includes which forms to fill in if the house is registered in your wife's name.
SeparatedDads - 13-Aug-18 @ 2:52 PM
Eriksen23 - Your Question:
After 12 years of marriage my wife wants a divorce, neither have cheated but she’s unhappy, I’ve done everything to save the marriage with no joy. The deeds of the house are in her name and have been for 4 years, previously the house was her parents. I have been living there for 20 years splitting the bills etc but we never had to pay rent or a mortgage on it. Now I am worried that at my age and low income I can never afford to buy another property without some kind of settlement from the divorce. Am I entitled to some pay off for my contributions to the bills, upkeep of the house etc so I can start again? I have also helped raise and support 2 children over the 20 year period even tho I am not their natural Father

Our Response:
Much depends upon the age of the children and the needs of each individual (the children being considered first). As the marriage has lasted a significant length of time you would be entitled to a percentage of your wife's pre-marital/presumed inherited asset. Remember, everything in marriage is considered jointly owned regardless of the financial amount each spouse has personally contributed. However, your wife may have the upper hand because of the children and the property are effectively hers. What that percentage should be, is best decided between you. As a last resort, court would be an option to consider but this would cost. You would be best to seek legal advice regarding this matter.
SeparatedDads - 13-Aug-18 @ 12:50 PM
Hi My wife and me are separating, (divorcing), after 17 years of marriage and 21 years of cohabiting in a" house on her name". At the start I use to give her my other place's rent money, £180 a month, then we got joint accounts and all expenses were shared. Soon after that I was paying for most of the bills and transferring to my wife's account £600 a month to help with mortgage and house related bills(all utility bills are under her name, she would never change anything). What are my rights when we divorce, regarding the money I have paid towards the mortgage? I don't want to walk away empty handed. We have had separate bedrooms for 6 years, and I intend to give her more money that the law requires for the children (12 and 15) maintenance. I seriously need some advice, all stuff on internet confusing. I have printed and need to send a Land Registry HR1 form. Is that right? Many thanks in advance. PS Happy to share my story, but can you also reply to my email, please?
Pepe - 12-Aug-18 @ 4:13 PM
After 12 years of marriage my wife wants a divorce, neither have cheated but she’s unhappy, I’ve done everything to save the marriage with no joy. The deeds of the house are in her name and have been for 4 years, previously the house was her parents. I have been living there for 20 years splitting the bills etc but we never had to pay rent or a mortgage on it. Now I am worried that at my age and low income I can never afford to buy another property without some kind of settlement from the divorce. Am I entitled to some pay off for my contributions to the bills, upkeep of the house etc so I can start again? I have also helped raise and support 2 children over the 20 year period even tho I am not their natural Father
Eriksen23 - 12-Aug-18 @ 1:54 PM
katylou - Your Question:
I have an interested registered with the Land Registry for my former marital home, the mortgage is in my ex husbands sole name. After we split, he moved out and I stayed at the home with our young daughter for a year, then found my own home and moved out. He has subsequently defaulted on the mortgage, and it is looking likely that the house will be repossessed. What are the implications (if any) to me if the house is repossessed? It is likely that the house will be in negative equity (he's been renting it out, and it's pretty much trashed), so if there is a shortfall in the mortgage would I be pursued for that? On the other hand, if there is any equity remaining after the mortgage is paid, would that have to be included in our eventual divorce settlement?

Our Response:
Much depends upon whether you can afford to take on the mortgage and how long your ex has defaulted on it. If the house is in negative equity, then there will be no equity left to distribute. If there is a small amount of equity left it will go to the mortgage company to help pay towards the defaulted mortgage. It may be worth you seeking some legal advice as it all depends on the sums, so to speak. However, in order to have the house transferred, the matter would have to go through court. When you stayed in the house with your daughter if you could afford to keep up with the mortgage a court would have been unlikely to remove you.
SeparatedDads - 26-Jul-18 @ 9:51 AM
I have an interested registered with the Land Registry for my former marital home, the mortgage is in my ex husbands sole name. After we split, he moved out and I stayed at the home with our young daughter for a year, then found my own home and moved out. He has subsequently defaulted on the mortgage, and it is looking likely that the house will be repossessed. What are the implications (if any) to me if the house is repossessed? It is likely that the house will be in negative equity (he's been renting it out, and it's pretty much trashed), so if there is a shortfall in the mortgage would I be pursued for that? On the other hand, if there is any equity remaining after the mortgage is paid, would that have to be included in our eventual divorce settlement?
katylou - 25-Jul-18 @ 12:07 PM
alys - Your Question:
My partner has been divorced from his wife for over 10 years. She remained in the marital home with the 3 children and has now been married for several years tp someone else. He has moved into the house and they pay the mortgage but my partners name is still on the mortgage and this prevents him being able to get a mortgage of his own. All children are now over 18 and studying and working part time. My partner wants to take his name off the mortgage so that he is able to buy a property for himself but he doesnt know how to do this. can you help please?

Our Response:
Your partner can ask his ex to buy him out of the house, or remortgage if she can.
SeparatedDads - 23-Jul-18 @ 2:10 PM
my partner has been divorced from his wife for over 10 years. She remained in the marital home with the 3 children and has now been married for several years tp someone else. He has moved into the house and they pay the mortgage butmy partners name is still on the mortgage and this prevents him being able to get a mortgage of his own.. All children are nowover 18 and studyingand working part time. My partnerwants to take his name off the mortgage so that he is able to buy a property for himself but he doesnt know how to do this. can you help please?
alys - 22-Jul-18 @ 7:26 PM
@Katt - :( sad for you. You would have a claim if you have been together for so long especially if you lived together. The options are to agree a split between you (surely he dosen't expect you to leave without nothing after 20 years). If he isn't feeling generous, then you can apply to court. If you are married, even though the house is in your husband's name, you can register a beneficial interest in order to stop him selling without your permission. Let's hope you can agree a financial settlement between you. But please be assured you do have rights. See a solicitor -it's worth paying for some initial advice.
Jacq - 17-Jul-18 @ 10:18 AM
My husband and I have been together for 18 years, but actually married for only 2 years He bought the house we are living in soon after we started our relationship (the mortgage and deeds of the house are on his solely name and he’s always been paying the mortgage) I’ve been working until a couple of years ago, when we decided to get married and have children. For that I quitted my job. Now I can’t get pregnant and he wants to divorce me (I’m 46 years old) I’m devastated (but that’s another matter), I would like to know if am I entitle to anything at all? Alimony, any rights towards the house? Thank you so much
Katt - 16-Jul-18 @ 11:58 AM
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
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