This is usually a couple's most significant asset.
If you own your own home there are a number of options available.
You could sell the property and split the proceeds between you. You would need to consider alternative accommodation and possibly put your name down on a Council waiting list sooner rather than later.
One of you could move out and the other remain in the property. You need to consider whether this is a financially viable option for you. You also need to consider what payment needs to be made to the person moving out in respect of their interest in the property (consider your borrowing capacity). You will need to know how much equity is in the property. If the property is mortgaged you will need the company's permission.
If you have children you may wish to consider an arrangement whereby you stay in the property and “buy out” or sell the property when a certain event occurs such as the children leaving full-time education.
There are two ways of owning property, joint tenants and tenants in common. You may wish to check this as if you are joint tenants your share of your property would pass to your spouse upon your death. This can be changed with the preparation of a document known as a Notice of Severance.
If the property is rented you may both wish to leave but will have to consider when the tenancy is due to end. One of you may move out and you will need to consider transferring the tenancy from joint to sole names. This will not be possible where there are rent arrears.
If you are going to remain in the property yourself, whether owned or rented you need to consider whether you can afford this and you need to consider practical arrangements such as dealing with bank accounts in joint names, informing the Council Tax department (you may be entitled to a discount on your own). Have you informed the relevant agencies in respect of any state benefit received?
Any of these arrangements can be agreed informally but it is always best to consult a solicitor. It is also advisable to have any agreement set out in a legally binding document known as a Consent Order. A Consent Order can only be prepared where there are divorce proceedings.
You should also consider whether your partner is named as beneficiary in any policies or pensions and whether you wish to change this. Do you need to make a will?
What happens if we cannot reach an agreement ourselves?
If this is the case then you can make an application to the Court.
The Court will take various matters into account when considering what order should be made. The Court considers all the circumstances of the case, gives first consideration to the welfare of any children of the family under the age of 18 and in particular the Court has regard to the following matters:
(a) The income, earning capacity, property and other financial resources which each spouse has, or is likely to have in the foreseeable future, including, in the case of earning capacity, any increase in that capacity which it would be in the opinion of the Court reasonable to expect a person to take steps to acquire.
(b) The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities which each spouse has, or is likely to have, in the forseeable future.
(c) The standard of living enjoyed by the family before the breakdown of the marriage.
(d) The ages of each spouse and the duration of the marriage.
(e) Any physical or mental disability of each spouse.
(f) The contributions which each spouse has made, or is likely to make in the foreseeable future, to the welfare of the family including any contribution by looking after the home or caring for the family.
(g) The conduct of each spouse if that conduct is such that it would, in the opinion of the Court, be inequitable to disregard.
(h) The value to each spouse of any benefit which one spouse, because of the divorce, will lose the chance of acquiring (most usually Pension provision).
The aim of the Court is to achieve fairness. Often a key factor is the reasonable needs of yourself and your spouse.