Question: I have just found out that my wife of 30 years has been having an affair with a colleague at work. Naturally, I have thrown her out, and now I’ve got a solicitor’s letter saying I have to let her back in until I raise enough cash to settle her interest in the house. Surely this cannot be right? Also, the house is registered in my name only — I’ve been careful about that since she cheated on me before.
© Merrily Harpur
Answer: I am afraid that your wife has what we call “matrimonial home rights” in your property, including a right to live there until financial matters get sorted out between you.
In English law, responsibility, or blame, for the breakdown of marriage is only relevant for establishing the legal grounds for a divorce petition and simply holds no sway when it comes to sharing out the finances.
In the absence of any formal written agreement, such as a declaration of trust or nuptial agreement, the marriage itself gives rise to a claim on property even where it is registered in one spouse’s name. There are other factors to be considered, though, such as savings, investments, pensions, income levels and any debts.
The starting point for a marriage of this duration is equal division of the financial resources available. While this can seem unfair, the court’s view is that spouses make equal contributions to the family finances over the years. Recognition is also given to non-financial contributions such as cooking and cleaning or raising a family.
Seek advice from a specialist family lawyer to ensure that all relevant factors are properly considered in your case.
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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.