It's important to think about any joint assets or assets acquired during the marriage. This can include the matrimonial home, and properties or other assets bought together. When married couples or civil partners purchase property, it's common to purchase the property as 'joint tenants' (also known as ‘common owners with a survivorship destination’ in Scotland). This means that the ownership of the property is not carved out into distinct parts. It is impossible to transfer, sell, or leave in a will part of the property, without the consent of the other joint tenant. For further information read Legal interest and beneficial interest in property.
A solution to joint ownership can be to 'sever the joint tenant' (ie split the joint tenancy into a tenancy in common). Each person can then own distinct shares in the property. This means you can sell your share to your partner, or leave it in your will to whom you wish. To do this in England and Wales, you would need to use a Notice to sever joint tenancy and register this with the Land Registry.
In Scotland, changing ownership from common owners with a survivorship to common owners (what tenants in common are known as in Scotland) is a very complex procedure. You should Ask a lawyer if you want to change how your property is held.
Can my ex-partner force a sale of the home?
Your ex-partner cannot force you to sell the family home. If you can't come to an amicable agreement then the court may order a sale of the family home, but this is not the only option. The property is deemed to be owned jointly as part of the matrimonial assets and therefore neither of you can force a sale of the home.
What happens to any assets that were gifted during the marriage or civil partnership?
Any assets that were gifted during the marriage are considered unconditional gifts. This means that it is assumed that these gifts were given with no other consideration and that it was intended for the other person to keep the benefit from it. These can include an engagement ring, a wedding ring, any other jewellery, cash gifts and other tangible possessions. It's unlikely a person can ask for these back once a divorce has been finalised, as these gifts would be considered to belong to the other party.
What happens to any assets that we bought together during the marriage or civil partnership?
Any assets acquired jointly during the marriage or civil partnership are assumed to be owned in equal shares. This means that if there is no proof as to who bought the asset and with whose money, then the courts are likely to infer that the asset is owned equally. It will be up to the individual parties to either split the assets equally or negotiate who will get what. You may find that a family mediation service is required to help the parties, if there is disagreement over a particularly valuable asset, eg a car, a pet or expensive furniture. For further information read Mediation.