Sad but true, divorce is not confined to country music songs. Read our tips on how not to lose your house when you lose your spouse
When you walk down the aisle in your best bib and tucker, probably the last thing on your mind is what might happen to you' home it you get divorced. However, statistically, the most frequent reason why people fall into arrears with their mortgage repayme nts is relationship breakdown.
And it could happen to you. One in every three first marriages and one in two second marriages ends in divorce, so the statistics are against you there as well. If you are in a relationship and you can sense things are going wrong; you can start to deal with the consequences of a break-up early. But if it all comes as a big shock, your partner saying their good-byes as he or she walks out the door. it will feel like everything is conspiring against you. Not only do you have to deal with the emotional trauma, but you also have to cope with the financial consequences.
You may think the best way to avoid all this is to draw up some kind of pre-marital agreement, but in this country they are barely worth the paper they are written on in legal terms. However thinking along these lines is useful when it comes to settling your mutual responsibilities - who will service the mortgage and who owns what proportion of your home if you break up. And if you can't come to an amicable arrang ement about how you are going to live your married lives, perhaps you should reconsider the whole idea.
Properties can be owned jointly in one of two ways: as joint tenants or as tenants in common. Married couples generally go for the joint te nancy agreement where each has an equal interest in the property and if one dies their share goes automatically to the spouse. Tenants in common each have an agreed fnted share in the property which, on their death, goes to whoever is nominated in his or her will.
Establishing who is entitled to what in this way can help to avoid confusion in the future. If the property is in the name ofjust one spotise then the other has no claim on it in the event of a separation. If your husband or wife suddenly declares they want out, you can try to protect your interests by notifying the Land kegistry that you live in the property. Once you have registered your occupation' your other half cannot sell the property without telling you.
Holding a mortgage in both names also means you have equal responsibility for maintaining the repayments. If one of you disappears, the other will have to pay the full amount. So, if you have se parate current accounts, make sure you have both set up standing orders with the lender. While it is very easy to dismantle these, it's a better scenario than having your spouse clear otit your joint current account, leaving you with nothing at all.
Both getting married and getting divorced nullify your existing will. If you haven't got one at all, bear in mind that all the time you're married your estate will go automatically to your spouse if there isn't a will to say otherwise. If you're concerned about your share of your home going to someone else - if yon have dependants from a previous family, for example - then it will he important to sort out your \will, whatever your marital status. Contact your 010 for details of how to go about this. The Law Society promotes Make A Will Week each October and the Will Aid scheme in November will see your fee go to charity.
If everything is getting on top of you and you're finding it difficult to cope now you have everything to do and no-one to share the burden, remember that you can get help from a number of sources. Your first visit is obviously to your lender. Let them know abont your situation as soon as possible, before you run up any debts. A lender will look more sympathetically on someone telling them in advance that they need to reduce their monthly repayments than someone who just doesn't pay.
You can seek advice from an independent financial adviser (IFA) through 010 for free. an IFA will be able to look at your entire financial situation and suggest the best way forward. This advice, in conjunction with that from your solicitor, could prove invaluable if your spouse turns nasty. If you have an endowment policy supporting your mortgage, for example, an IFA will be able to tell you how to get the most from it if it has to be surrendered and the proceeds split.
A split often means you have to sell your home. You could think about buying out your partner, if you can afford it and your lender is happy for you to take on the whole mortgage. Otherwise you could agree to delay the sale until, perhaps, your children have grown up a little so as not to remove their family home for the sake of the break-up. You will have to come to some arrangement about who pays what, although the courts will determine this if you caimot work it out between yourselves. So it' s worth remaining filendly, if only for the sake of the roof over your head.
Back to contents