Property Adjustment Order

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One of the biggest problems facing separating couples/partners is what should happen to their family/shared home. If agreement cannot be reached as to who will occupy and own the family/shared home, the court can make an order in relation to it. An order in relation to the family/shared home is usually applied for when applying for a decree of judicial separation, divorce or dissolution and is referred to as a property adjustment order.

In making a property adjustment order, a court will consider all of the family circumstances and will take into account the welfare of a dependent spouse/civil partner and any dependent children.

The court order will state the following:

  • Who has the right to live in the family/shared home and for how long
  • Who has ownership rights in the family/shared home and what share does each spouse/civil partner own

Who has the right to live in the home and for how long?

In the case of a married couple where there are children, the spouse with whom the children live will often be given the right to live in the family home until the youngest child reaches 18 or 23. This can provide a sense of continuity for children who are experiencing the separation of their parents. The Children and Family Relationships Act 2015 has amended the civil partnership legislation to provide similar protection for dependent children of civil partners.

The court can make an exclusion order in relation to the spouse/civil partner who is leaving the family/shared home. An exclusion order reflects the recognition of the courts that it is not practical for separated couples/partners to occupy the same house or for the spouses/civil partners who leave to retain a key and have free access to the house. It does not imply any unacceptable conduct on the part of the spouses/civil partners who are excluded from the house.

Who has ownership rights in the home and what share does each spouse/civil partner own?

A court can order that the house is sold and the proceeds divided equally or in whatever shares it considers just. It can order that the sale be deferred for a specified period of time. It can order the transfer of the house into joint names or into the sole name of one spouse/civil partner. If the house is held under a tenancy from a local authority, it can order the transfer of the tenancy.

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