'Can I Get Divorced and Still Keep a Roof over My Head?' ; ASK SINDIE

The Independent on Sunday (London, England), May 27, 2007 | Go to article overview
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'Can I Get Divorced and Still Keep a Roof over My Head?' ; ASK SINDIE

Facing the end of a 26-year marriage, a reader is struggling to cope financially

Having separated from my husband of 26 years and begun divorce proceedings, I'm desperate not to lose my house.

My problem is that my husband - who pays half the mortgage - wants to come off the deeds and stop paying me anything. He has a new partner and a baby on the way, and needs every penny he can get.

What can I do?

If he is removed from the deeds, I'll never get a mortgage on my own income to enable me to keep the house, which I very much want to do.

I earn [pound]15,500 a year, and my two sons, who both work full time and live at home, pay me [pound]160 a month each. My new partner is willing to help but I feel it's very early days for us. To commit to a mortgage at this stage would be unfair to him.

The [pound]135,000 mortgage I currently have with HSBC costs [pound]676 a month. I have switched the payments to make them temporarily interest only, to help reduce my outgoings.

We also have a second mortgage - this time of [pound]30,000 with First Plus - the monthly payments for which are [pound]331. That makes a total debt to pay on the house of [pound]1,007 each month. My husband pays me [pound]620 towards this.

Separately, I have had to go to the bank and take out a loan to pay off an overdraft and credit card that he left me with. I feel very bitter that I am having to pay for this.

My husband says that if he comes off the deeds, he is prepared to forfeit all rights to any profit from the house if it should be sold - but as it would probably only fetch about [pound]200,000, that would leave hardly anything to enable me to start again.

Do I need to go to a solicitor to sort this out? I was quoted a fee of [pound]5,000, which seems an awful lot.

ST-S, by email

There are various ways estranged couples can try to sort out their finances, says Joanne Bennett, senior family law solicitor at the firm Woolley & Co. "These are to reach an informal agreement between yourselves; to go to mediation; and to negotiate via solicitors."

Mediation - meeting formally without legal advice - could be the most effective route, as well as being relatively inexpensive compared with using solicitors, says Ms Bennett, but it relies on both ex-partners working together.

In the case of divorce following a long marriage, assets, income, pensions, etc, are not simply divided straight down the middle.

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