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Matrimonial Home: What Are My Rights?

By: Lorna Elliott LLB (hons), Barrister - Updated: 27 Sep 2019 |
Marriage Divorce Maintenance Payment


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)


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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Emma25 - 22-Mar-19 @ 6:34 PM
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fatheroftwo - 13-Mar-19 @ 2:50 PM
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Well1977 - 11-Feb-19 @ 1:19 AM
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Matt - 4-Feb-19 @ 1:06 PM
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Brogan - 31-Jan-19 @ 10:07 PM
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