The home is usually the largest single asset in any family. When a relationship breaks up one partner might wish the family home to be sold or want the other person to move out. If the home is sold there may be disagreement over how to divide the proceeds.
Married couples have the protection of the law to help decide these questions. The Court has wide-ranging powers. It can vary the rights of ownership between the parties, and even order the sale of the property. Even if the case is not taken to the Court, legal advisors work on the same principles which guide the Court, whether they reach agreement by negotiation or collaboratively. Needs, resources and contributions are important factors, as well as the length of marriage and the ages of the parties involved.
Sometimes the home has to be sold (e.g. if there is a large mortgage). Selling the home and moving is stressful, but it can often be the only practical way to achieve a sensible division of the family asset. Unless the total matrimonial assets are enough to enable both parties to re-house, it is normal to see a mother with children, or an older wife with limited employment prospects, get most or all of the value of the home.
Unmarried couples have no clear protection under the law (for more information please visit our page on Unmarried Families). Cohabiting couples have to fall back on the law of trusts, which can be uncertain. The very best advice for cohabitees is to make a Declaration of Trust when you purchase your home. This sets out the terms under which the parties buy their home, and what happens if they split up.
A completely different outcome is achievable if there are children, because the needs of children are high on the Courts’ priorities.
Temporary help is available to regulate rights to occupy property. This would usually be considered after harassment, domestic violence or a similar situation.