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Separating couples ‘should pause’ before selling up

A RESURGENT housing market should not tempt separating couples to sell their home in a hurry, a leading law firm has warned.

Expert divorce lawyers at Ward Hadaway say that the general rise in house prices in recent times has meant that the size of the assets at stake in many divorce cases has increased.

Rising living costs coupled with slower increases in salary and a less predictable employment market is also putting pressure on relationships, leading to an increase in separations.

However, lawyers at Ward Hadaway say that while it is understandable that separating couples will focus on the family home as a key asset, they should not be tempted – or pressured – into a quick sale.

Jonathan Flower

Jonathan Flower

Jonathan Flower, Partner and Head of the Family team at Ward Hadaway (pictured), said: “Financial issues are often a factor in divorce and relationship breakdown with money troubles causing increased tension in relationships which may already be fairly fragile.

“At a time when many people’s finances are under pressure, family lawyers are currently seeing an increase in new instructions for divorce.

“Separating finances for divorcing couples can be extremely difficult, especially when the main asset tends to be the family home.

“With property sales now increasing and values climbing, there is potentially more money in the matrimonial pot for division between parties.

“However, this in itself can be a new source of tension and conflict in the process.”

The often unpredictable housing market combined with differences of opinion between the separating couple can lead to major issues, Jonathan warned.

He explained: “In a number of cases, there can be one person who wants to get out of a marriage and obtain a quick divorce.

“This can tempt some separating couples to reduce prices beyond even the natural reductions often applied when attempting to achieve a speedy house sale.

“Couples who go down this route may find they sell in haste and repent at leisure, ending up with considerably less than they could have done.

“This in turn can mean their efforts to make a fresh start in their lives and move on from the previous relationship are badly hampered by a shortage of money.”

While those couples who decide to sell quickly can be left out of pocket, separating couples who remain split on the issue of the family home can also encounter difficulties.

Jonathan explained: “In other instances, there can be resistance by one partner to sell the property for less than its true value, particularly if they are going to be keeping all of the sale proceeds as part of a financial agreement.

“This can cause the other partner to employ other types of pressure to force a sale, such as withholding mortgage payments or purchasing a property at a gross undervalue through a third party.

“Thankfully, relatively few divorce cases reach these levels, but those which do are very difficult to manage for all parties involved.”

Separating couples can take some of the heat out of the situation – and get better informed about their various options – by seeking professional advice.

Jonathan Flower explained: “The key message in these situations is to get expert advice before making any rash decisions about selling your property.

“Consulting financial advisers, estate agents and solicitors will enable you to get a much fuller picture of where you stand and the options you have in what is a very important and difficult situation.

“The final decision may not be an easy one to make, but at least it will be made with the benefit of good, professional advice.”

Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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