Am I entitled to a share of the sale of my ex-wife’s home?

Question

Am I entitled to a share of the sale of my ex-wife’s home?

I walked out of my 19-year marriage in 1998. During the marriage we bought our house from the council for £27,500.

In 2006, I got into financial difficulties due to credit card debts and child support payments and had to declare myself bankrupt. My main asset was a third share of the family home and I think I signed a form relinquishing my entitlement to it.

My ex-wife has now put the property on the market for £625,000. Am I entitled to any profits from the sale or does she keep a lovely half a million profit all to herself?

DS/London

Answer

The answer to this question very much depends on the form you signed in 2006. If divorce and financial proceedings were concluded and you signed a Consent Order that transferred the property to your ex-wife outright and dismissed your respective financial claims against each other arising from the marriage, then you will not have any right to make a claim against the equity in the property on sale.

However, if divorce proceedings and/or financial proceedings have not been issued and concluded then you will still have financial claims against your wife and you should consider issuing proceedings. You should seek advice from a specialist family lawyer.

If the form was signed for the purposes of your bankruptcy only, then this may be a relevant document for the court to see but it will not necessarily preclude you from receiving a share of the net proceeds.

If the house is in your ex-wife’s sole name, then you can protect your interest in the property by registering a home rights notice which will notify any prospective buyer of your interest, while giving you time to resolve this issue. This will ensure the property is not sold without your knowledge in the meantime.

If the property remains in joint names, then this is not an issue as your consent will be required before the sale can proceed in any event.

It is therefore very important that you seek specialist advice as soon as possible so that they can consider the form you signed and advise you accordingly.

There is a requirement to try to resolve financial matters in mediation before issuing proceedings and it may be that, if you still have financial claims against your ex-wife, the two of you can reach an agreement there without the need for formal proceedings. You can find reputable mediators through the Resolution website at Resolution.org.uk.

Any agreement you reach should then be recorded in a Consent Order to ensure it is legally binding. You will need a solicitor to prepare this document on your behalf.

You may also be interested in the recent high-profile case of Vince v Wyatt (2015) UKSC 14 in which the Supreme Court made clear that even if the divorce (but not financial) proceedings were concluded several years ago, a spouse still has a claim to their ex-spouse’s assets provided they have not already dismissed their respective claims in a court order.

Sarah Hughes is a family solicitor at Anthony Gold Solicitors.