Can I divorce myself from proceedings?
Question: When my parents divorced 20 years ago, they transferred a family holiday villa in France over to me and my sister for us and our friends and family to enjoy. My sister is now going through a highly acrimonious divorce and tells me I've got to get legal advice and become involved in their divorce proceedings or the property will get sold. I don't want us to lose our villa but don't see why I should have to spend any money or get involved at all. What should I do?
Answer: Alas, it is not uncommon for wider family to have to become involved when property like this becomes the centre of a marital dispute.
A third party like you can be invited to join financial remedy proceedings when a property's ownership is unclear or when sale of a share looks likely.
Before looking at a sale, other factors, such as availability of other resources, scope for setting one asset off against another, length of marriage and evidence of nuptial agreements should be considered.
If a sale is the only option, then you will need to get involved if you are to have any influence whatsoever over what happens to your sister's share. For instance, other options, such as borrowing, or you buying your sister out, may be worth exploring. Do speak to your sister's divorce solicitor, if she has one, and ask for a neutral explanation of the situation and sight of any court order made requiring you to get involved.
Once you have established what is actually happening, it would be prudent to get your own independent legal advice to protect your position.
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If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, email email@example.com. 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.