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Cutting Through Complexity

The dream holiday home - Another 'Millstone' for divorcees?

5th June 2017

Judith Fitton looks at the list of complexities when deciding who gets dibs on the holiday pad in a divorce Summer 2017 Darling Magazines issue.

From a sprawling villa in the fashionable Cote d’Azur to a fisherman’s cottage in Pembrokeshire, holiday boltholes are not the preserve solely of the super rich. Many middle income families own a second home and, in the event of a divorce, they fall to be divided, along with all the other capital assets. Resolving who gets what can be difficult, particularly when a holiday home has sentimental or family ties for both parties. Letting go of previous happy memories or dreams of one day retiring there is not always an easy step to take.

If the couple in question is unable to agree on who should keep the property or whether it should go on the market, either of them can ask the court to make this decision on their behalf. The court’s priority is to secure a main home for both adults and any children. Usually, a second home is viewed as a luxury that can be sold to relinquish capital which is needed elsewhere. But, if property prices have dropped dramatically since the time of purchase, it may be in negative equity and too much of a financial burden to maintain. It could be a poisoned chalice that neither party wishes to take on, in which case, the court has to allocate responsibility fairly by considering each individual’s needs and the resources available to them.

A recent High Court case involving a dispute over a couple’s holiday home in County Galway illustrates the regrettable reality when both partners contest who will be granted sole ownership. The husband is claiming he wants to keep the property for his fishing pursuits and the wife, who has ancestral ties to the area, is desperate to retain her home in the small ‘one horse town’. They await judgement. If the court concludes that a transfer to either of them will not produce a fair outcome, then that leaves only one option – a sale. 

CONSIDERATIONS

  • Be realistic about the costs of upkeep and how often the property is likely to be used.
  • A decision should be commercial and expert advice on the true market value and the tax consequences of a sale or transfer should be sought.
  • If the property is abroad, consult a specialist lawyer in that jurisdiction.

Judith Fitton is a Family Law Partner at Mundays. For more information contact judith.fitton@mundays.co.uk | 01932 590 557

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