The Family Law Act 1996 provides rights relating to former family home owned by one spouse that may impact on the occupation of the property by the non-owning spouse. Under the Act, if a non-owning spouse is in occupation of the property, they have a right not to be evicted by the owner spouse without a court order. Alternatively, if the non-owning spouse is not in occupation, they have a right with leave of the court, to enter and occupy the matrimonial home. In such circumstances, it is imperative that the non-owning spouse register a Matrimonial Home Rights Notice with HM Land Registry and any mortgage lender.
Once a Matrimonial Home Rights Notice has been fully registered, it operates akin to a legal charge on the property, resulting in the registered proprietor being unable to sell or mortgage the property unless written consent has been received from the non-owning spouse, in whose favour the notice is registered. If the Matrimonial Home Rights Notice is not correctly registered, it is possible that the owning spouse may sell or remortgage the property, which may adversely impact the non-owning spouse within the outcome of any financial proceedings.
The non-owning spouse ordinarily only resides in the property until a financial settlement is concluded and divorce proceedings are then finalised, although it may be possible for the non-owning spouse to continue living in the property for longer, e.g. during an ongoing dispute about which party owns particular chattels, if a court has made a ‘continuation order’ allowing for this.
It is also worth noting that a non-owning spouse cannot apply for a Matrimonial Home Rights Notice if their spouse owns the property with someone else – unless the owning spouse would get all the money if the property was sold (also known as being the ‘sole beneficial owner’).
If you would like to know more about Matrimonial Home Rights Notices and how we might help you resolve your family law matters, Hunter & Uro offer a free initial consultation. Our specialist family solicitors can help guide you through your options. Contact us on 0207 177 9777 or 01234 889777 for more information.