Can I Force My Former Partner to Sell the House?

Posted on: 7 mins read
Last updated:
Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Share Article:

If you’re getting a divorce, it’s important that you and your former partner try and come to a decision about the house that you’re both happy with. If this isn’t possible then you may have to take your issues to the Family Court, but this should be a very last resort.

When deciding what will happen to finances in divorce, including the family home, the Courts in England and Wales will consider many different things, including:

  • The income or earning capacity, property and other financial resources that each of you have or is likely to have in the future
  • The financial needs, obligations and responsibilities that each of you have or might have in the future
  • What your family’s standard of living was before your marriage broke down
  • How old both you and your former partner are and the duration of the marriage
  • Any physical or mental disabilities that you or your former partner may have
  • The contribution made by each of the parties to the welfare of the family, including any contribution made by looking after the home or caring for the family
  • If either of you add a value to the marriage that would benefit your former partner, such as a pension, which they will lose the chance of acquiring after your divorce

If you have already divorced, but you did not get a Financial Order then you could still make a claim against your former partner’s assets at any time. But this can often be a long and expensive process, so it’s recommended that you get legal advice before entering into any Court proceedings.

Our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors are experts and can help resolve conflict between you and your ex without having to make an application to Court. But we also have the expertise to support you if there is no other option for you.

TrustpilotStarsWe're ratedExcellent

Divorce or Separation - Who Gets What?

One of the hardest parts of divorce or separation can be deciding who gets what. Your home might be your biggest asset, so it can be tough if one of you wants to sell the house and one of you wants to stay.

These proceedings can be difficult, especially when there are lots of emotions tied up in your previous relationship, and if you’re struggling to talk to your ex without it bringing up bad feelings.

In these situations, it’s important to approach everything with the sensitivity and mindfulness needed, which is what our Family Law and Divorce team are able to bring to the table when it comes to offering advice on these proceedings.

But first - here’s what you can and cannot do with the family home depending on your circumstances.

If You are Married

If you and your former partner are still legally married then you probably won’t be able to force them to sell the family home if they don’t want to, without first getting a Court Order in your divorce proceedings.

This is because they have matrimonial home rights, which means even if they don’t legally own the property with you, they still have a right to live in it because you are married.

This is why it’s important to distinguish between people who are divorcing and people who are just separating. Both situations are still difficult for all parties involved, but they are different.

Often, there are a wide range of different rights involved, for both parties, when people are getting divorced and are figuring out who is owed what. When a couple is separating but they haven’t been married, there are less rights and laws tied in with this, aside from the laws put in place around buying a house together.

It’s essential to make sure you understand the law around divorce, and how it all works, so that you are prepared for legal proceedings.

What You Can Do

If you have separated, you should:

  • Try and Come to an Agreement - Speak to your former partner about who will live in and pay for the family home. This is a big decision, but try and keep your emotions out of things and decide based on what will work best for both of you.
  • Get a Separation Agreement - If you think the best course of action is to sell the property, but your former partner doesn’t agree, then things can become complicated. If you’re not planning on getting a divorce straight away, one of our Divorce Solicitors can help you get a Separation Agreement. This is a written agreement that outlines what will happen to the family home in separation, as well as your other assets and family issues. We can help you to reach an agreement before you get a divorce.
  • Start Divorce Proceedings - When you apply for divorce, you can apply for a Financial Order at the same time. A Financial Order is a legally binding document which sets out any agreement about what will happen to the family home and other assets now and in the future (not just while you are separated). This is sometimes called a Clean Break Order. If you do it with the agreement of your former partner, it is called a Consent Order.

If You are Divorced

What happens to the family home after divorce will really depend on your situation. If you jointly own the property and you want to sell but your former partner doesn’t, then you can’t force them out without a Court Order.

If your partner owns the home in their sole name and you don’t have children then it’s likely that once you divorce you won’t have a say over your home, so you should make sure that you take steps to protect your interest in it. 

If you do have children, then it’s important to do what you think is best for them. If your disagreements go to Court then the Judge will always first consider the welfare of any children you have under the age of 18.

You should always try and sort your matrimonial finances out while you’re in the process of getting a divorce, so that your former partner can’t make a claim over your assets further down the line when you’re both living separate lives.

You should know that even if you’ve been divorced for some time, you can apply for a Financial Order at any point. This means that people often find their circumstances have changed considerably and they could have received money from an inheritance or increased a pension fund, which would really complicate issues.

What You Can Do

If you’re in the process of getting a divorce or if you are already divorced, and you can’t agree on what will happen to the family home you can:

Try Mediation - If you and your ex can’t come to an agreement, but you’re set on selling the family home then you could try mediation. This is a meeting where you both sit down with a mediator and try and solve your issues less formally through conversation.

Get Legal Advice - Contact one of our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors to help you sort through your issues and come to a final decision on who will stay (if anyone) in the family home. We can help you reach an agreement and use our experience to advise you on what the Court might decide if your issues were to go to Court. This is a good way of showing you what the outcome may be if you can’t come to an agreement between the two of you.

Speak to a Family Law and Divorce Solicitor

Deciding who has more of a right to the family home is complicated.

In the world of family law, separation and divorce, often, people think if the house is in their name they have a right to do what they want with it, but when you’re married it’s not that simple. And if you have children it becomes even more dependent on your entire family’s circumstances.

Our Family Law and Divorce Solicitors are experts at resolving family issues. When you contact us, we will listen to you and tailor our services to your needs. So you’ll know what the best outcome for your family could be.

We understand that divorce can be emotionally difficult, so we will always be understanding and approachable. Your Solicitor or Lawyer will work with you to help you and your ex come to an agreement and move on.


Zoopla. (n.d.). What happens to your property when you get divorced? Retrieved from

Citizens Advice. (n.d.). What happens to your home when you separate? Retrieved from

Savills. (n.d.). Selling a home after a relationship breakdown. Retrieved from

Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Lorraine is a Partner at Simpson Millar, specialising in Family Law for over 20 years.

She handles middle to high net value cases, including pension claims and complex trust, and also advises on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Lorraine has unrivalled knowledge of public sector pensions, in particular police pensions, having advised police officers on pension claims for two decades.

Get in touch, today!

Fill in the form below to get in touch with one of our dedicated team members, or call our team today on: 0808 239 3465

This data will only be used by Simpson Millar in accordance with our Privacy Policy for processing your query and for no other purpose