What is the Matrimonial Home?
In the England and Wales matrimonial home refers to the house or property where a couple lives as a married couple or civil partners. Matrimonial home rights are legal rights that protect the non-owning spouse’s right to occupy or stay in the matrimonial home, even if they are not the legal owner. These rights are designed to provide security and protection to the non-owning spouse, especially in cases of divorce or separation.
Under matrimonial home rights in the UK, both spouses have equal rights to stay in the matrimonial home, regardless of who owns it. This means that even if one spouse is the legal owner of the property, the other spouse has the right to live in the home and cannot be evicted without a court order. These rights apply whether the property is owned outright, mortgaged, rented, or provided by a local authority.
Matrimonial House Rights and Privately Owned Property
It is important to note that these rights do not grant ownership rights to the non-owning spouse. They only provide the right to occupy and use the home for a certain period of time. However, these rights can be crucial in ensuring that the non-owning spouse and any dependent children are not left homeless or without a place to live particularly while the decision about what happens to the house post divorce is being negotiated.
Registering Matrimonial Home Rights
A marriage or civil partnership automatically provides matrimonial home rights but to ensure these rights are valid and enforceable it’s really important to officially register these rights at the Land Registry. In addition, by registering your home rights you will be added onto the legal documents for the home. This means that other people and organisations such as banks and people who want to buy the property will know that you have rights. It also means that your spouse cannot sell or mortgage the property without you being informed. If you do not register your matrimonial home rights, then your spouse could sell or mortgage your home without you knowing about it. This may mean that you have to leave the property. It may also restrict your claims for finances on divorce.
How to Register Matrimonial Home Rights
To register matrimonial home rights, you will need to complete a Form HR1. This form can be obtained from the Land Registry website or by visiting a local Land Registry office. The form requires basic information about the property and the parties involved, such as the address of the property, the names of the owners, and the date of the marriage or civil partnership.
Once the form is completed, it should be sent to the Land Registry along with the appropriate fee. The Land Registry will then process the application and register the matrimonial home rights on the property’s title register. This registration serves as a notice to anyone who may have an interest in the property that there are matrimonial home rights in place. The consent of the spouse that owns the property is not required for the registration process (although they will be notified) which allows the non-owning spouse to have peace of mind knowing that they cannot be evicted from the home without a court order.
The process can get complex if the property isn’t registered with the Land Registry or if the owing spouse owns it with another person. In these circumstances, it’s certainly worth seeking the advice of a family law solicitor.
If Matrimonial Home Rights Are Registered Can Eviction Still Take Place?
Matrimonial house rights don’t give unlimited protection. There are certain circumstances in which eviction can still occur, such as:
- Divorce or dissolution of the civil partnership: If the marriage or civil partnership is dissolved, the court can order the sale of the property, which may result in eviction.
- Financial settlement: During divorce or dissolution proceedings, the court may consider the financial needs and resources of both parties. If the court determines that it is necessary for one party to vacate the property to achieve a fair financial settlement, eviction may occur.
- Court order: In exceptional cases, if the court determines that it is in the best interest of the parties involved, they will grant an Occupation Order which states who can, and who cannot, live in the property. Occupation Orders are commonly used in cases of domestic violence.
A family law solicitor should be consulted about occupational home rights because they can provide expert advice and guidance on the legal rights and protections associated with the family home. They can help individuals understand their rights and obligations, negotiate with their spouse or partner, and represent their interests in court if necessary. A solicitor specialising in family law can ensure that the individual’s occupational home rights are protected and that they achieve a fair outcome in relation to the property division.