How do I stop my spouse selling the home?

It’s a common scenario: the marriage (or civil partnership) has broken down, and the matrimonial home is owned solely by one party. How does the other party stop the owning spouse from selling or mortgaging the property?

If there are divorce proceedings then ultimately the court will decide what is to happen to the (former) matrimonial home, if the parties can’t agree this between themselves. However, what can the non-owning spouse do to protect their interest in the home before the court sorts things out?

One answer is that the non-owning spouse can register their ‘home rights’ (i.e. their right to occupy the home) against the title to the property at the Land Registry (the title to most properties these days is registered at the Land Registry, but there is a similar procedure available for unregistered properties). Registering home rights means that the non-owning spouse will be notified if the owning spouse tries to sell or mortgage the property (if you receive such notification you should take urgent legal advice – see below).

Home rights can only be registered against one property, and therefore the home rights procedure is not available in respect of other properties owned by the other spouse. It is also not normally available where the owning spouse owns the property with someone else. In these cases the non-owning spouse may have to take other action to protect their interest in the property.

It should be noted that the home rights are brought to an end when the divorce is finalised, unless the court has previously made an order extending the rights beyond the termination of the marriage. It is therefore important to ensure that what is to happen to the house is sorted out before the divorce is finalised.

It should also be noted that the registration of home rights is not an absolute protection against the house being sold or mortgaged. To obtain full protection, you will have to take further steps, and you should do so urgently if you believe your spouse is intending to sell or mortgage the property. A specialist family lawyer can advise you about this. Family Law Café can help you find a specialist – to contact us click the Contact link above and fill in the form, or call us on 020 3904 0506.

Image: home sweet home, by essie, licensed under CC BY 2.0.