Although the no-fault divorce that came into effect in April 2022 marks significant changes in divorce in England and Wales, the new laws do not affect the financial aspects of divorce. Lots of questions on financial matters arise during a divorce, including those around the divorce property settlement. Perhaps you have a business with a property, have several properties or houses abroad. To help shed some light on what you are entitled to in your divorce, we have provided some useful insights.
What are matrimonial assets?
It’s beneficial to know that in a divorce concerning finance and property, matrimonial assets which include property, pensions, investments, belongings and business assets will be divided in a way that the courts consider to be fair.
The family home
As typically one of the most valuable assets in your marriage, the family home is usually considered separately to other assets. Judges will begin with a view of splitting the home equally between two spouses. Factors that can influence a move away from a 50:50 split include the financial needs of both parties, any children involved and what the standard of living of both parties is. If you have been married for a long time, it is more likely that the court will look for an equal split.
Who owns the property or who has been paying the mortgage are not typically influential factors. Where possible, it is always best for spouses to reach an agreement between themselves. If you cannot resolve matters this way, or through mediation, the Judge will decide.
What do the courts have the power to order?
When the court has reached a decision, it can issue a Property Adjustment Order. This order could be instructing both parties to move out of the property and split the equity between them. Or for one party to buy out the other to become the single owner of the home. Courts can also postpone the sale of the house if children involved live there i.e., the order could include waiting until they are 18 until the home can be sold.
How much will I receive in equity?
In addition, they can order a Transfer of Equity where the legal ownership of the house is changed without selling it. Equity is then transferred to the other party. The amount you will get in the transfer is calculated by valuing the property and splitting the equity (typically) in half. For example, if your property is valued at £200,000 and there is a mortgage of £50,000 on it, there is £150,000 equity in the home. The party who keeps the home will pay cash for half of the equity and take on responsibility for the outstanding mortgage.
Fees to consider
There will be certain fees to pay in the Transfer of Equity process. These include legal fees from your solicitor (these vary based on the complexity of the case), and stamp duty if there is a mortgage on the property. You will also need to pay a Land registry Fee to officially change ownership. You may also have to pay an administration fee to the freeholder if your house is a leasehold property.
The amount you will receive in a divorce property settlement depends on the specifics of your divorce case. The key takeaway is that the courts will always aim to make divisions as fair as possible. It is always worth speaking to a family lawyer to guide you but if you can come to a resolution with your spouse, this will reduce conflict and prolonged discussions that could cost you more in the long run.