Home > Ask Our Experts > Matrimonial Home: What Are My Rights?

Matrimonial Home: What Are My Rights?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 12 Nov 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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I haven't seen my husband for over 10 years and I'm about to complete on my own property.Obviously he won't have contributed anything towards the property as it's new.Will he have any rights to the property if he ever reappears?
C - 12-Nov-18 @ 10:02 PM
Hi. I recently split with my long term partner who we have 2 kids. She has found her own home to live in for which she receives support with the rent in benefits. I also pay full child maintenance. our property which we both own has been empty for the last 6 months, but in the last 3 months she hasn't paid her half of the mortgage. She originally agreed to sell the house to me. Recently she has been in and emptied the property of all possessions without my consent. I since changed the locks to stop her entering again and taking anything against my will. Since this she has now refused to sell the house to me. She does still want to sell the house, just not to me as she wants to make my life difficult. Currently I live with parents but have no stable home for when I have my kids. I have been reasonable with her, but am going to be proceeding with court to settle this. What is the stance with her wanting to sell the property, just not to me? How would a judge likely view this? Thanks for any help
jonjon61 - 6-Nov-18 @ 6:35 PM
Hi. I recently split with my long term partner who we have 2 kids. She has found her own home to live in for which she receives support with the rent in benefits. I also pay full child maintenance. our property which we both own has been empty for the last 6 months, but in the last 3 months she hasn't paid her half of the mortgage. She originally agreed to sell the house to me. Recently she has been in and emptied the property of all possessions without my consent. I since changed the locks to stop her entering again and taking anything against my will. Since this she has now refused to sell the house to me. She does still want to sell the house, just not to me as she wants to make my life difficult. Currently I live with parents but have no stable home for when I have my kids. I have been reasonable with her, but am going to be proceeding with court to settle this. What is the stance with her wanting to sell the property, just not to me? How would a judge likely view this? Thanks for any help
jonjon61 - 6-Nov-18 @ 6:23 PM
My wife bought the house we are living in 15 years ago (she is solely on the deeds of the house). We got married a year ago but we have been living together in that house for 7 years. We were thinking to put me on the deeds of the house in case something happens to her (or we get a divorce), but the bank is threatening on changing the conditions on the mortgage (raising the interest rate dramatically). We’ve been told that we could sign an agreement in which she agrees to share the ownership of the house with me (50% ownership). Is this possible? What should be the requirements in order to make this agreement legally binding? Thanks for your support
Will - 3-Nov-18 @ 4:43 PM
My wife has seperated from me in 12/6/18 as we had a row again about her son my stepson selling drugs from our home police where involved my wife hasn't let me back home since and just 2weeks later I receive a seperating note from her scolisitor since this I lied to police about my accusations towards her son to try save our marriage but she dosent want to know she also wants to buye me out of the home although I transfered the full sum of money to buye the house and also refreb with my monsy after selling my home I'm now liveing in a flat which I can hardly afford she's doin extensive worth refurb to the house also with out my concent where do I stand as I'm now basically broke and homeless?
Duck - 24-Oct-18 @ 11:03 PM
Hi, My wife and I have been married for 17 years. We have a 7 year old son. We are separated and my wife is being unpleasant. We are all still living in the FMH together. My wife and I have both contributed more or less equally to the FMH. There is enough equity in the FMH for us both to have an amazing deposit on 2 smaller new homes, but not buy new homes outright. My wife wants to remain in the FMH. I want to sell the FMH and split the proceeds. There are no other assets in the family worth mentioning. Question: what are the chances of my wife being able to remain in the FMH and me being kicked out with nothing at all? Thanks for your help!
Shane76 - 15-Oct-18 @ 12:07 PM
Still married to ex wife and we have a 13 year old child together. I left 9 years ago and see them at the house 2 times a week. I want to sell the house to get on with my life with my new partner but i am still paying every bill including the mortgage plus give her £80 a week on top for their shopping. The ex wife doesnt want to move as its 4 bed and large but she is a hoarder and every room is untidy and it all needs painting. I have been trying hard last 4 years to get it tidy enough to sell but she is constantly dragging her heels and says she is too tired/ill (she doesnt work as she says she's to ill...) and its just dragging on but i have come to the end of my fuse as i am getting huge pressure from everyone else to get the house sold. I cannot reason with her as she just gets childish about it. Its costing me over £20k a year which i can barely afford. I am supposed to pay just £95 towards my child based on my earnings
Idiot - 10-Oct-18 @ 11:38 AM
What's the legal position over shared sheltered housing association property where the wife signed for it first but joint names are in the tenancy and husband pays the rent and all the bills. If I left her would I have to continue to pay all the bills and how can I get a property on my own is there anyone I can contact. We have been married over 40 years pensioner with 2 private small pensions, but I cannot live with her moods anymore but I am frightened to leave for fear of not being able to manage money wise paying for 2 rents etc.
BOYLE - 9-Oct-18 @ 2:44 PM
Rohan - Your Question:
My wife and I have divorced. She moved out of our jointly owned home and for 15 months has not paid anything towards rates. Or the morgatage. Is she still entilted to half due to myslef only servicing the bills for this period?

Our Response:
This would have to be negotiated between you. If you have children, it would make a difference in the eyes of the courts. If you don't then what you both have put into the property and taken out should be agreed on and divided equally, preferably by mutual agreement, or mediation.
SeparatedDads - 11-Sep-18 @ 10:08 AM
My wife and i have divorced. She moved out of our jointly owned home and for 15 months has not paid anything towards rates. Or the morgatage. Is she still entilted to half due to myslef only servicing the bills for this period?
Rohan - 10-Sep-18 @ 4:20 AM
Harry - Your Question:
My ex wife and myself divorced about 13 years ago, my name is still on the deeds and mortgage, I have not paid towards the mortgage since we split up but I pay child maintenance for my daughter who is 17, my son is 19 so I no longer pay for him, she now wants to take me of the mortgage and deeds, I’m I entitled to any money from the equity in the house?

Our Response:
Much depends upon the amount of money you put into the house originally. You would have to seek legal advice.
SeparatedDads - 3-Sep-18 @ 11:52 AM
My ex wife and myself divorced about 13 years ago, my name is still on the deeds and mortgage, I have not paid towards the mortgage since we split up but I pay child maintenance for my daughter who is 17, my son is 19 so I no longer pay for him, she now wants to take me of the mortgage and deeds, I’m I entitled to any money from the equity in the house?
Harry - 2-Sep-18 @ 11:47 AM
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
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