A divorce is usually a stressful and emotional event — more so when it involves joint homeownership. If your ex has stopped paying the mortgage, it’s essential to understand your legal position and responsibilities.
We’ve put together a short guide on what to do when a joint homeowner neglects their financial obligations.
Who is liable when a partner stops paying the mortgage?
If your name is on the mortgage, you’re liable for the repayments — whether or not you’ve been responsible for them in the past. If your partner suddenly stops making payments and you fall into arrears, your credit rating will be affected. And you’ll be jointly liable for any interest charges.
I want to stay on the property.
If you want to live in the property even though your partner has stopped making mortgage repayments, your options might be limited. First, contact your lender to explain the situation. There may be the option of a payment holiday or reducing the monthly repayments somehow. As long as you’re honest and communicate regularly, your lender might respond to your requests favourably.
But this is only a short-term solution. Sooner or later, your mortgage company will demand monthly repayments in full — along with any arrears due. If you have a steady income, you have the option of taking on the mortgage repayments yourself. However, without a legal agreement in place doesn’t improve your claim to the property.
The best course of action is to appoint a solicitor to deal with the issue of property ownership. If you’re determined to stay in the home, you have the option of making an offer for your ex’s share.
I want to leave the property.
If you can’t afford the repayments on your own, or you want to move on, you can sell the house. However, you’ll need the permission of your ex — even if they’ve stopped making repayments.
Exactly how the proceeds of a house sale are split depends on the circumstances of the divorce. You can either agree on percentages between you or go to court and leave the decision to a judge. If you’ve been paying the mortgage on your own for several months, you might feel you’re owed more than half the equity.
What happens to my home if we have children?
If dependent children under the age of 18 are involved, the process is a little different. In most cases, the primary caregiver will get the right to remain in the property until all children turn 18. A court judge might decide this even if your spouse wants to sell the house. The court will usually force your partner to contribute to the mortgage during this time. Alternatively, you might be in a position to buy your partner’s share of the property outright.
Dealing with property ownership during a messy divorce is often complex and very stressful. If you’re determined to sell up and move on as quickly as possible, then consider selling using the auction process or to a cash buyer.