Question: I separated from my husband of two years in 2001 after he had an affair. I had remortgaged the home we owned to pay off his £30,000 debt and to save him from bankruptcy. The house was transferred to my sole name and I sold it in 2003. What little financial support he offered ceased soon after he left.
© Merrily Harpur
We remain married because he ignored my divorce petition and then moved to an undisclosed address with his mistress and their two children. Eleven years on he has reappeared and is demanding his half-share of the house. What do I do?
Answer: Marriage continues to bind couples financially, whether they live together or not, and financial circumstances are assessed at the point of divorce — not separation.
On the face of it, there is scope here for money from the sale of your previous house to be traced and your husband’s entitlement assessed. However, the law requires any settlement to take into account all the circumstances.
In your case, a court cannot ignore the actual duration of this marriage, your financial contribution to it and your previous attempts to progress a divorce. Your husband will need to explain why he failed to protect his interest in the property upon leaving — he could have registered matrimonial home rights — or engage with your divorce proceedings. In any divorce settlement, income and pension funds need to be factored in. It seems to me that you have strong arguments of contribution and conduct to counter any claim for a half-share of the matrimonial assets. Do seek specialist legal advice from a family lawyer.
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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.