Following the breakdown of a marriage, dividing up your possessions and agreeing what will happen to your home can take some time to resolve. Divorce proceedings through court can take as little as three months if everything is agreed in advance, but can take many years to finalise if there are arguments over who should receive what in terms of property, maintenance and possessions.
At some point during that time (if not earlier), you will hopefully come to terms with the fact that your relationship is over and you will want to move on to the next phase in your life, leaving behind that failed marriage. Once you have reached that stage, you might look for a new relationship, or start to look for your own, permanent home so that you can begin to feel settled once more. However, it is very important for you to understand how courts make their decisions when it comes to dividing assets up after a marital breakdown, before you even consider buying a new home.
Getting a divorce
There are three applications that will be made to court in any divorce: the divorce petition (which sets out why you want a divorce), the decree nisi (which gives notice that your divorce will soon be made final, giving opportunity for any objections to the divorce to be raised) and the decree absolute (which finalises the divorce).
Usually, a solicitor giving divorce advice will tell you not to apply for the decree absolute until the finances of the marriage have been resolved. Whether by consent or order by a judge, a final court order needs to be made to say who will receive what. Often, a ‘clean break order’ is made, meaning that you both keep what the court says you can keep, and then neither of you can make any further financial claim against the other. This is appropriate in most cases, though in some cases either party can claim for ongoing spousal maintenance or pension rights.
If no final financial order is made, either you or your ex could apply to the court at a later date (at any time in the future) for more money from the other. This is crucial to understand because if you do not have an order as part of your divorce, then any future assets you come to own could be subject to a claim by your ex, even years after the divorce.
Once an order has been made (or an agreement has been approved by the court) you can apply for the decree absolute and your divorce will have been finalised.
What happens to assets owned before the divorce is made final?
Anything you owned during your marriage, regardless of whose name they were in, will be classed as marital assets. A court will take into account anything owned during the marriage and sometimes anything owned before the marriage, too, when deciding what is a fair settlement as part of your divorce proceedings. ‘During the marriage’ includes the time after you separate but before the final court order is made.
If you were to buy a house before a final order was made, the court would take the value of that house into account when deciding who should get what as part of the divorce proceedings. Your ex could therefore either make a claim against the value of that house, or receive more of the other assets you both owned to take account of the fact that you owned that new house.
It is therefore strongly advisable that you do not buy a property before your divorce is final and a clean-break financial order is made, so that your ex cannot later claim a right to the value of your new home.
Living arrangements pending divorce
Until you have received a final financial order from the court (or had approval from the court of an agreement as to how you and your ex will split your marital assets), you should try to keep your financial circumstances as static as you can. This will mean that if you do not live in the marital home, you should rent somewhere rather than buy, so as not to inadvertently start building up a pot of equity in your new home that your ex could claim against.
If you rent a fully-furnished property, you may not have room for any possessions that you have kept from the matrimonial home. Or you may not have space in a small, rented property to keep all of your belongings safe and secure. Do not be tempted to buy a new home just so that you have somewhere to keep your things – instead, look into storing your personal items
, furniture and furnishings until you can safely move into a more permanent home after the divorce proceedings have been finalised. Many people going through a divorce will put their belongings into storage until they are settled once more and this is a viable option as storage is inexpensive and will ensure that your property is safe, clean and dry until you have somewhere permanent to put it all again.
Once your divorce is finalised and a court order has been made as to who will get to keep what in terms of money and property, you can then consider buying a new home.
Discover more moving home
and life events
articles on Safestore’s blog
where you’ll find a range of topics; from homeowner advice to expat tips and more. Or, if you require storage during a move we have a range of self storage options in over 100 locations – find your nearest store
for a quote today.