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The breakdown of a relationship is never an easy time. Untangling two lives is a difficult and stressful process. In many cases it’s no longer financially viable to keep the former marital home. Or, it may be the time to make a fresh start by moving somewhere new.
Selling a home as part of a divorce follows a similar structure to a normal home sale. The main difference is in how you split the equity of the resulting sale. This will vary depending on your personal situation, but is often not as clear cut as a half and half split.
Maintaining lines of communication, whether you handle this personally or through a mediator, will help ensure that the outcome is fair.
How to value a house in a divorce
Whatever you decide to do with your home, it’s necessary to have your property valued first. Ensuring you get an accurate valuation is vital because this will help you figure out the amount of ‘equity’ held in your property. Talk to your estate agent or surveyor when they perform a valuation to explain the situation. Let them know that you need the market value, and not a suggested asking price.
If you’re unsure which estate agent will give you the most accurate valuation, we can help. Our data-backed comparison tool provides objective information about the estate agents in your area - including who is best at valuing property.
The amount left once you have subtracted the remainder of your mortgage from the market valuation is the ‘equity’ left in your house. This will be divided between you and your partner.
How is a house divided in a divorce?
The way assets are divided in a divorce depends on your personal circumstances. You and your partner may decide to split your assets yourselves, without a mediator or lawyer. You’ll make this legally binding with a ‘consent order’ approved by the court. If you’d prefer you can also have a mediator or legal professional help decide how your assets will be split.
Dividing the equity in a property is not necessarily a straight-forward 50-50 split. Nor will one party be entitled to the whole property if it is just in their name. If one partner is not on the title deeds they are likely to have a ‘beneficial interest’ in the home. For example, if they’ve paid towards the mortgage or towards improvements to the property.
Some courts - like those in Scotland - will also take into account whether a partner was economically ‘disadvantaged’ or ‘advantaged’ by the marriage. For example: sacrificing a career to look after children, selling a property to move into the marital home, or making financial contributions to the family allowing their partner to afford a mortgage.
If you’re unsure about the correct way to split your equity, it’s best to consult a family lawyer. They will be able to help you figure out the fairest split.
Can we sell the house before we’re divorced?
Yes, it is possible to sell your house before you’re divorced, and in some cases this is the preferable route to take. Selling a property before a divorce gives you both time to agree how the equity will be divided.
Selling before you divorce also gives you a chance to begin the next phase of your life without being financially tied to each other. Even after you’re divorced, you and your former partner will still be tied to any joint financial products, such as a mortgage. This means that your ex-partner’s actions will still impact your credit rating. Selling your property before a divorce will cut this tie.
However, you must make sure to take into consideration any ‘home rights’ before you sell. If you sell your marital home before you’re divorced without your partner’s consent (regardless of whether they are on the title deed) you are breaking the law. If you’re unsure of your rights it’s important to contact a legal professional who will be able to advise you.
For more information about selling your property, check out our handy guide.
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