Long posting, lots to explain, really hope someone can help/advise. Its complex (nothing is ever simple anymore!)
I'm needing to sort housing out and I can't seem to find anyone who has been in a similar position. I'm UK based, unmarried, tenants-in-common with STXWGF on mortgaged house, two children. Youngest is due to start school in about 2 years and is currently at nursery, the oldest is already at school - first year of primary school.
Legally, there is no D as we aren't married. Legally, (and unlike D), there is nothing in law saying that I need to maintain STXWGF. I will of course pay child maintenance - in UK that can be arranged between the parents without need to refer to court or the child support agency.
The house was bought when the market was high, we put on a sizeable deposit. If the house was sold now, there would be some equity but it wouldn't be as much as the deposit so a loss but at least not negative equity. The house needs some TLC to get the best value at market.
I work full time. She works part time. Neither of us can buy the other out. She has worked out that between work and benefits (as single mum) she could pay for the household bills. She has quite a bit of debt (which she has kept hidden until now). Some of the debt is in relation to the house or things for the house so I will (by law) need to pay a share of those joint benefit items. It will take a year or two to pay off.
There are some options and I need help working through these:
1. She has suggested that she takes on all the household bills. She pays half the mortgage. I pay half the mortgage and rent somewhere locally. We co-parent. The benefits are the children stay in 'their' house, I get to co-parent (rather than just weekend-dad). My half of the mortgage would be what I pay for child maintenance so financially it works out okay for me. Its an easy option. Its easiest for the children and WGF and myself.
This option also means that some of the TLC can be done (fix the garden, painting and some rendering). It also allows the housing market to continue to recover.
Downside is that it keeps the mortgage and house -if I or she, met someone else then what? If she stopped paying into the mortgage I would have to pay it all or risk ruining my credit rating and any future chance to buy a house (although that would also make her homeless so unlikely to happen).
I'm thinking that if this option was taken up then I'd want a formal agreement written whereby after 12 months or so, we agree to sell the house anyway unless, by some miracle, we are in true R.
2. I could 'force' the sale of the house. Since neither of us could afford to buy the other out and we are separated this may seem to be the obvious choice. The benefits would be to not have a mortgage, complete separation. The downsides would be more significant - for STBXWGF getting a 3 bed house to rent locally would be difficult and costly. From a financial viewpoint, until her debt is paid off she would struggle to find the rent money and live on the benefits and part-time work. In addition, as she doesn't drive she needs a house close to the nursery and her work and there isn't much to rent around our part of town. The next consideration is that as she will be a single mum on benefits many landlords will not rent to her because she is on benefits and they would be worried about not getting payment. Her other option would be to move and live with her Mother who is about 2 hours away. This means she would lose her job and the children would be taken away from nursery/school. Its also highly likely that I would become a weekend Dad at best and rather than pay half-the-mortgage I would pay the child maintenance so from a financial viewpoint it makes little difference to me.
I have already considered her moving out and I keep the house with the children. She could rent locally (like option 1) and co-parent. The difficulty here is a reliance on her for childcare when I'm at work (which is not local). I also don't believe I would get any help with the house or household bills. I know she would also argue about who has the children. UK law would still put the children with the mother by default (regardless of reasons for split unless it was violence). I suspect that there would be a battle which I'd hate to put the children through.
I'm tempted with option 1. Timeboxed for 12 months. Pay off the debts, fix up the house,co-parent until youngest ready to go to school. (youngest at school means less money paid by her and me for childcare). After 12 months, if not in true R, then sell the house, split the equity. Yes it may mean that she moves away but there is also more chance of staying closer because she will be more financially stable. I also think this is a longer transition for the children so they don't have to deal with separation and selling of their home all at once. Another benefit of this option is that I can move out and rent somewhere fairly quickly which would help to reduce some of the stress of living in the same house but in separate rooms.
Despite her A and behaviour none of that makes a jot of difference in-law in the UK. That's not something that is taken into consideration unless the behaviour put the children at risk and by that I mean it would have to be neglect or violence. That isn't the case here and since its not D (where the courts might award the house to
the children until they are 18) it really does come down to one of the options above (or maybe there is another option I haven't thought about?)
Anyone got any thoughts? Any advice?