Can I be forced out of our marital home?
Question: My wife and I just don't get on and we have recently talked about getting divorced. Now I've received a solicitor's letter telling me to leave the marital home immediately or they'll take me to court. I know we can't stay living together forever and the house will probably have to be sold but surely they can't boot me out yet? It's as much my home as my wife's and I have nowhere to go.
Answer: New year is often the trigger for one party to take the first steps in progressing a divorce — and deciding who should move out, and when, is one of the most difficult issues couples will face.
In the absence of bad behaviour, such as domestic violence or emotional abuse, there is no legal basis for "booting" you out of your own home. So, unless tetchy arguments have descended into violence no court can force you to leave.
For many, the prospect of continuing to live under the same roof when the marriage is over is quite untenable. Where finances won't stretch to running two households though, couples must continue to live together until the family home is sold or one buys the other out.
The legal position is that your financial interest in the house stays the same, whether you live there or not. In practice there can be problems: if you move out and then your wife refuses to co-operate with a subsequent sale of the property, for example.
In an ideal world, the answer is to find a solution which keeps you both safe and sane while you get on with trying to work things out.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email firstname.lastname@example.org. We regret that questions cannot be answered individually.
Fiona is a partner in the residential real estate team at Thring LLP (www.thrings.com).
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.