Court orders for co-owners

The court has wide powers when it comes to making orders in the case of a relationship breakdown, particularly when couples are divorcing or dissolving their civil partnerships.

Dissolving a civil partnership or divorcing

If you are married or in a civil partnership, a decision on the long-term rights you have to your home can be made as part of your divorce/dissolution proceedings.

The orders the court will use as part of divorce/dissolution proceedings are called property adjustment orders. Property adjustment orders can also be issued as part of separation proceedings.

What types of property adjustment orders are available?

The most common property adjustment orders the court can make are:

  • transferring the home from one partner to the other
  • selling the home and splitting the proceeds
  • delaying the sale of a home
  • declaring that the parties no longer have financial obligations towards each other – this is called a clean break order
  • if a couple have decided to sell the home, the court can formalise the decision. This is known as a consent order.

Getting property adjustment orders can be complicated, and once issued, they cannot usually be changed. It is important to get advice before taking action. Use our directory to find an adviser in your local area.

An adviser may tell you that you also need the help of a family law solicitor. You can find one through the Community Legal Advice Directory. If you are on a low income, you may be eligible for legal aid.

Transferring the home

The courts can transfer property belonging to one or both married or civil partners on a long-term basis. Transferring the home will change the legal ownership of the property, but the name on the mortgage can only be changed if the mortgage company is willing to accept the change. They may not accept the change if they think that the other person will not be able to afford repayments.

Ordering the sale of your home

The court can order the sale of a home and establish each partner's share of the financial proceeds. The court will only do this if:

  • it doesn't leave anybody homeless, or
  • if the marriage/ civil partnership was relatively short, and 
  • there are no children involved.

If you are not legally ending your relationship (through divorce or dissolution proceedings), you may still be able to get an order for sale through the courts.

Orders to delay the sale of the home

The court can delay the sale of the home until a future date, for example, until the partner staying in the home remarries/ enters into another civil partnership, or the youngest child reaches a certain age. The court can also make an order that one partner can live in the home until the date when the home is sold. The court may also specify who will receive what proportion of the financial proceeds when the home is sold.

Clean break orders

The court can also end any financial obligations the partners have towards each other – these orders are only likely to be made if:

  • the partners have no children
  • the marriage/partnership was short
  • both partners are working.

Consent orders

If you and your partner have been able to agree together to sell the home, the court can make this a formal agreement – to make sure both sides stick to the agreement. This is known as a consent order.

What does the court consider?

Any decision the court makes will be in the interests of any children. The court will also take into account if either you or your partner would be classed as homeless and in priority need as a result of a property adjustment order.

The court will also consider your financial circumstances, your income or potential income, and the length of the relationship.

Last updated: 1 January 2014