We Have A Joint Mortgage, Split Up And Are Not Married – What Happens Next?
While you can take on a joint mortgage with anyone you choose – your parents, siblings or friends, for example – the situation arises most often in the context of unmarried couples. When their relationship ends, couples are often anxious to understand their legal position, and our expert family law solicitors are regularly asked to advise on what happens when clients have a joint mortgage, split up and are not married.
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What Is The Legal Position When A Couple With A Joint Mortgage Split Up And Are Not Married?
Separating from a partner can be one of the most difficult experiences to go through in life. Not only do you need to deal with the emotional toll the split can take on yourself and your family, but you must also address the practicalities of untangling the life you have built with your ex-partner. If you have children, you and your ex-partner must work out living arrangements for them and decide who they should spend time with, and when. Joint assets must be divided, the most significant of which is usually the family home.
The good news is that, when you are registered as the legal owner of the property along with your partner, your rights over it are, as a general rule, equal. Your partner cannot force you to leave your home until you are ready, and cannot take any action in connection with it, such as selling it, without your permission. As such, you are in a far stronger position than unmarried individuals who live in a property solely owned by their partner.
English law classes unmarried couples living together as cohabitees, so your rights and obligations are essentially the same as they would be if you were living in a jointly owned property with a friend or family member. Crucially, whatever the circumstances surrounding your separation, both you and your ex-partner remain legally responsible for meeting the mortgage repayments until it has been paid off. You must, therefore, ensure that you continue to pay the mortgage as you did when you were a couple, regardless of your personal differences.
If your relationship ends, you and your partner have several options regarding what to do with your jointly owned home. The option most suitable to your situation will depend on a variety of factors, including whether you have children, the desires of both partners in terms of remaining in or leaving the property, and your financial position.
Examples of the most common courses of action taken by couples with a joint mortgage who split up and are not married include the following:
• The couple pay the mortgage off in full
If you are nearing the end of the term of your mortgage and your relationship with your ex-partner is not too strained, you might choose to carry on making the repayments as you did when you were together, until the mortgage is fully paid off. You will then own the property outright and can do with it as you wish.
• The couple pay the mortgage off by selling the property
Provided the sale price is sufficient to pay the mortgage off, this offers a sensible option and is regularly chosen by separating couples. It facilitates a clean break, and the couple can split the proceeds and use them towards building a future apart.
• One partner leaves the property but retains a financial interest in it
This option can work well if one partner is happy to move out of the property but does not wish to entirely relinquish their financial interest in it. When the property is subsequently sold, that partner will be entitled to a share of the sale proceeds.
• One partner buys the other’s share of the property
This option enables the couple to make a clean break and sever ties, but relies on one partner having the capability of buying the other’s share in the property. If you do not have the funds available outright, you can apply for a mortgage over the property in your sole name but will need to satisfy the lender’s eligibility criteria.
If you and your partner have a joint mortgage, split up and are not married, our expert family law solicitors are here to help. They will be by your side as you navigate this and any other issues arising from the breakdown of your relationship. Their advice is measured, concise, and tailored to your individual needs and goals. They will always seek the quickest, least acrimonious and most cost-effective means through which to resolve the issues, so you can concentrate on moving towards a positive future.
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