When Is A Partner Entitled To Half Of My House?
For most people, their house is their most valuable asset. Accordingly, they are understandably keen to protect it in the event their relationship breaks down, and a question regularly asked of our family law solicitors is, ‘When is a partner entitled to half of my house?’
Our family law solicitors have vast experience in helping couples understand the nature and extent of their rights over assets such as the family home, both at the outset of their relationship and when it ends. They appreciate that property ownership can be a thorny topic and deliver their first-class legal advice with empathy, understanding and discretion.
The rights of married individuals and civil partners over a matrimonial home are protected by law. Non-owing partners enjoy rights known as ‘home rights’ over the home they shared with their partner during their relationship. When the relationship ends, home rights entitle the non-owning partner to live in the property until the divorce is finalised, or their civil partnership is dissolved. Non-owning partners must register their home rights with the Land Registry to gain optimum protection.
“Simper Law gave my family honest and straightforward advice. In a difficult time they were professional and showed empathy. Above all else their client care was faultless.
Ownership of the marital home comprises part of the financial settlement made during the divorce or dissolution process. Our clients are often frustrated to learn that, sadly, there is no straightforward answer to their question ‘When is a partner entitled to half of my house?’; the division of assets, including the family home, is case-specific, and depends on several factors.
The factors the Court will consider when deciding how to split the matrimonial home include the following:
- Whether the couple have any children. If they do, the welfare of those children will be the Judge’s primary concern.
- The length of time for which the couple were married or in a civil partnership.
- Each partner’s earning potential.
- The ages of the couple.
Ultimately, the Court will base their decision on the financial needs of both parties, subject always to the overriding principle that all decisions must be in the best interests of any children.
When the Court has decided how the matrimonial home should be split, it will make the relevant order. Examples of common orders include that the property be sold and the proceeds divided, or that one partner buys the other out.
It is, of course, always preferable for a couple to reach an amicable agreement as to how their assets, including the family home, should be divided. Only if the couple cannot agree should the Court be asked to intervene.
When Is A Partner Entitled To Half Of My House If We Are Not Married Or In A Civil Partnership?
The answer to the question ‘When is a partner entitled to half of my house?’ is even more complex when a couple are not married or in a civil partnership. Unmarried couples are treated by the law as cohabitees and do not have any specific rights by virtue of their relationship. For example, they do not benefit from the ‘home rights’ enjoyed by their married counterparts. Accordingly, if their relationship ends, unmarried individuals have no automatic entitlement to remain living in the property if they do not own it.
However, a non-owning partner might have an entitlement to a share of the property if they satisfy the criteria to bring what is known as a TOLATA claim. TOLATA claims are made under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act (TOLATA), which operates to enable anyone, including ex-partners, with a beneficial interest in a property to claim a share of it.
A Judge in a TOLATA claim must base their decision on what they believe the parties intended regarding ownership of the property, not what they consider fair. Financial contributions do not guarantee the non-owning partner a share of the property, save to the extent that they might indicate the parties’ intentions that they owned the property jointly.
If a TOLATA claim succeeds, the Judge can make a variety of orders to recognise the non-owning party’s interest in the property. For example, they might order that they be paid a lump sum by the owning partner, or even be permitted to live in the property.
TOLATA claims are notoriously complex. They are based on complicated legal principles of trusts law and their outcome is very evidence dependent. It is, therefore, crucial to work with experienced family law solicitors, like ours, when making or defending a TOLATA claim to collate and present the best possible case.
How We Can Help
Understandably, couples rarely involve family law solicitors when their relationship is going well, seeking legal advice only when cracks begin to show in their relationship, or when their relationship ends. However, taking a proactive approach to issues such as property ownership at an early stage can avoid protracted disputes down the line. Far from being unromantic, addressing these matters head-on can give you peace of mind that your interests, and those of any children, are protected, enabling you to relax and enjoy your relationship. If you would like advice on how best to protect your house, or other assets, and avoid any unpleasant surprises if your relationship breaks down, our family law team can help. They will consider your circumstances and devise an appropriate, cost-effective course of action. If your relationship has ended, our family law solicitors will advise on the extent of your ex-partner’s rights over your house and any other assets and assist you in defending any claims to ensure a fair outcome.