If you separate as a couple, your family home is often the largest asset that you have to divide, as well as the most contentious; Mesher and Martin orders may be your solution

Why would you want to postpone selling your family home?

You might want to delay selling your home for a multitude of reasons, for example, one of you may feel emotionally tied to the house, or it may be near to other family members. You may both be worried about having to move children from the home they have grown up in, perhaps to a different neighbourhood away from their friends, school, and social activities.

There is also the financial risk, especially with higher interest rates, that it could be difficult to sell the house for a good price to ensure sufficient equity to rehouse each of you in a suitable location.

While a clean financial break is normally what separating couples aim for, at times it may be appropriate to consider waiting to sell your family home. This can be achieved through what is known as a ‘Mesher’ or ‘Martin’ order’, Annique Sampson, Family Law solicitor

What is a Mesher order?

A Mesher order allows for the postponement of the sale of the family home until either a certain period of time has passed, or an agreed ‘trigger event’ occurs.

A Mesher order is usually used when there are minor children living in the family home, and it allows one of the spouses or civil partners to continue to reside there with the children. The ownership of the property is not impacted, and the spouse or civil partner remaining in the home does not ‘own’ the home outright. The order will remain in place until the time stipulated in the order, or if the trigger event is reached.

Trigger events typically include:

  • your youngest child finishing full-time education; or
  • the spouse or civil partner, who has remained living in the house, remarrying or cohabiting with a new partner for a set period of time (typically six months).

Once the order comes to an end, the family home will be sold. Then the balance of the proceeds of sale will be divided in line with whatever terms have been ordered or agreed.

What is a Martin order?

A Martin order is similar to a Mesher order in that it allows you to postpone the sale of your family home until an agreed trigger event occurs. The main difference is that a Martin order does not relate to minor children living in the house. This order is typically used when there are either no children involved, or any children are already over the age of 18.

The trigger events in a Martin order usually stipulate the property can be sold if the spouse or civil partner remaining in the home is to remarry or to cohabit with a new partner for a period of time. On occasion, a Martin order can be made to cover the whole life of whoever remains living in the house.

These types of order are usually only implemented when the court is satisfied that the capital from your former family home is not immediately required to enable both spouses or each civil partner to be rehoused. Typically, the spouse who moves out of the house will be wealthier of the two.

Is postponing selling your home the right option?

This decision will depend on your circumstances. In most cases, postponing selling your home will only be delaying a problem for you to deal with in the future. Historically these types of orders were used much more often than they are today, however this sometimes led to problems when the house was later sold and some people still could not afford to buy a new house.

Delaying matters meant the separated couple also had the added problem of having less of their working lives left to secure a mortgage. Most separating couples now prefer to cut their ties and know where they stand financially.

However, there are times when postponing the sale may be your best option. For example, if you have very young children, you may not be returning to work until they are at school and postponing a sale could push forward the need to obtain a mortgage until a later date.

You could also be tied into a good mortgage deal at the moment, which you would risk losing if the property had to be sold now. If you are able to obtain a Martin order for your lifetime, this could also remove a significant worry about your future housing needs and related costs.

It is important to note that postponing the sale of your home is not the only option to enable you to stay in the house. Our family lawyers will be able to advise you on the viability of other options, such as offsetting your interest in other assets to retain the family home without your former spouse or partner remaining as an owner.

How do I get a Mesher or Martin order?

If an agreement can be reached, your family lawyer can draft the terms of the order and apply to the court for it to be finalised.

If you cannot reach an agreement, then you can apply to the court for financial relief. The judge, after hearing your case, will make whatever orders they deem most appropriate for your circumstances.

How Cunningtons Family Law solicitors can help

If you are concerned about what might happen to your family home following separation, one of our family lawyers will be able to advise you on your options and discuss with you the advantages and disadvantages of seeking to postpone the sale of your family home.

We can also advise you on alternative options, and if you decide to proceed with a postponement we can ensure that appropriate trigger events are included to protect your interests in the future.

For further information, please contact Annique Sampson in the family law team on 01376 567 286 or email annique.sampson@cunningtons.co.uk.

Cunningtons LLP has offices in BraintreeChelmsford and Wickford.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.

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