Playing House: Divorce, The Property Market and The Marital Home
Published on 04 December, 2018 | Sam Hall
It is an unfortunate fact of modern life that a significant number of marriages do not last.
According to figures published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), there were 101,669 divorces in 2017 (https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/birthsdeathsandmarriages/divorce/bulletins/divorcesinenglandandwales/2017).
The same tranche of data revealed that 42 per cent of all marriages are brought to a legal end with half of divorces occurring within 10 years of couples exchanging vows.
Obtaining the decrees which formally conclude a marriage is not, of course, the only part of divorce.
Couples still need to come to agreement about how best and most fairly to divide their assets.
For many husbands and wives, the largest part of their joint worth is represented by the marital home.
However, as I’ve been telling Carol Lewis of The Times, the process by which property is dealt with can be far from straightforward (https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/why-divorcing-couples-should-not-rush-to-sell-v0srldhdh?shareToken=f5c3a0e0b13385de8d0622de7df5f582).
Myself and my colleagues at Hall Brown Family Law have found ourselves dealing with an increasing number of cases in which spouses risk complicating their divorce settlements by rushing to sell the family home.
In some instances, it involves an individual in whose sole name the property is registered putting it on the market without their former partner’s knowledge. In others, husbands and wives are applying pressure in an attempt to force a quick sale.
That appears to partially be as a result of a property market which is once more in a state of flux.
The most recent ONS numbers have detailed that although the average house price in the UK rose by 3.5 per cent in the 12 months to September (https://www.ons.gov.uk/economy/inflationandpriceindices/bulletins/housepriceindex/september2018), there has still been something of a slowdown over the last two years.
Although the average house price (£232,554) is still higher than that the low point following the 2008 recession (£154,452), it’s possible to understand the financial anxiety of men and women facing the prospect of being single once more.
Even so, selling too quickly can affect divorce settlements, especially if it’s done without legal advice.
For instance, the proceeds of any sale may already have been spent and, if a spouse’s circumstances or needs have been reduced, their ongoing needs – and, therefore, the share of joint assets to which they might be entitled – may also be reduced.
Even though the end of a marriage can be a very emotional time, it’s far better to draw breath and seek the opinion of a solicitor instead of weakening your future position.