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One of the biggest assets upon divorce is often the matrimonial home. As a result, many of the disputes between divorcing spouses hinge on how to deal with property upon separation.

Often they will be able to decide between themselves what to do with the property. If they cannot reach an agreement, a court will need to intervene and make a decision on the best course of action.

Either way, a Property Adjustment Order will often be necessary.

What is a Property Adjustment Order and why would I need one?

A Property Adjustment Order is a legal document which states how the matrimonial home should be dealt with following divorce. Provisions for Property Adjustment Orders are set out in s 24 of the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

A divorcing couple will need a court to issue a Property Adjustment Order to provide legal standing to a financial agreement if this involves the family home.

In the event that they cannot decide how to divide up their home between themselves, it will be left up to the court to impose a financial settlement. There are various different order that can be issued:

Property Transfer – this is where ownership of the matrimonial home is transferred to one spouse. This may be an immediate transfer or an agreement to transfer the property at a later date (eg when any children finish full time education or reach the age of 18).

A property transfer may necessitate also transferring a mortgage or converting a joint mortgage into an individual mortgage.

Sale – although this isn’t strictly speaking a property adjustment order, selling up is one of the most common ways of dealing with the matrimonial home.

It is important to include an agreement to put the property on the market in the consent order, so that neither party can back out later on.

  • Mesher Order – this is essentially the opposite of an agreement to sell the home. It provides for the postponement of the sale of the family home, allowing one of the divorcing parties to remain living in the property for a certain period of time or until a so-called ‘trigger event’. Commonly this will involve the former wife remaining in the property with the children until the children finish full time education or reach the age of 18 (the trigger event).
  • Martin Order – this goes further than a Mesher Order, in that it provides for an indefinite postponement of sale of the property. The party who is granted residency in the home will often be able to carry on living there for the rest of their lives, subject to certain ‘trigger events’ such as re-marriage or if they voluntarily vacate the property.

How do I get a Property Adjustment Order?

There are basically two ways of getting a Property Adjustment Order:

  • Consent Order – these are used to provide legal standing to financial settlements upon divorce. A consent order is essentially a written document which sets out what has been agreed between the divorcing parties – in this case regarding how to deal with the matrimonial home. The Property Adjustment Order will essentially form part of the Consent Order.
  • Family Court – if the divorcing couple are unable to agree on how to deal with the family home, and mediation does not help, they will need to go to court which will impose a decision via a financial order. In this case the Property Adjustment Order will form part of the financial order.

Does the court need to be involved?

The court will always need to be involved in some capacity when making a Property Adjustment Order.

Even if the divorcing parties agree on how to deal with the property, the ensuing Consent Order needs to be approved by the court before it becomes legally binding.

Who needs to apply for a Property Adjustment Order?

A Property Adjustment Order is often drafted by a family solicitor as part of a Consent Order, which is then submitted to court for approval.

However, it is possible to obtain a Property Adjustment Order via a Consent Order service, such as that provided by Divorce Online.

How much does it cost?

The cost of obtaining a Property Adjustment Order can differ when using a solicitor.

The Managed Consent Order service we offer at Divorce Online costs £299 and can include a Property Adjustment Order. Saving individuals over £750 compared to their high street solicitor.

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    This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce Online Blog and Managing Director of Online Legal Service Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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