The family home is often a couple’s single most valuable asset and if your relationship has broken down, a Home Rights Notice should be registered at the Land Registry if your name does not appear on the Title Register.
Under the Family Law Act 1996, matrimonial home rights give protection to a husband, wife or civil partner where the family home is owned by one spouse but the other spouse has a right of occupation. If your family home is not yet registered at the Land Registry, there are still ways of protecting your interest and you should take legal advice on protecting your interests if this is your case. However, for the purpose of this article, we will assume that the property is registered.
Placing the notice on the register means that any potential buyers or creditors on the property are made aware of your interest. No sale or mortgage transactions could take place on the property without you being notified. Home Rights also allow you to stay at the property and mean that you cannot be excluded unless a Court order prevents you from being there.
Placing a home rights notice on the register will help to establish your rights in the short-term, however they do not affect the Court’s overall decision about whether the home will be sold or if one person will live in the home permanently. These decisions will be made as part of your overall settlement and you should take legal advice from the outset to explore the potential financial settlements you may be able to reach with your spouse or partner.
Unless the property is transferred into your sole name, you can usually only live in the property against which the notice is registered until the divorce, annulment or dissolution has been finalised and a court settlement agreed. Home rights themselves cease upon decree absolute or dissolution, which means it’s very important that issues about the home and the overall settlement are agreed or settled in Court before the divorce is made absolute or the civil partnership dissolved.
Home Rights do not give you a legal or equitable interest in the property. However, depending on the length of the marriage and other contributions the parties have made, a spouse may also be entitled to a share in the equity even though their name is not registered at the Land Registry. It is important to take legal advice at an early stage to ensure that your interests are properly protected.
Although this is common and necessary practice to register a home rights notice, it should be noted that in all cases notice of the application is served on the spouse or civil partner whose name appears on the Title Register. Often, this will alert the spouse or partner who owns the property that the other party has taken legal advice and intends to commence divorce or dissolution proceedings.