Transferring property for the benefit of children

This advice applies to England. See advice for See advice for Northern Ireland, See advice for Scotland, See advice for Wales

When a relationship ends, a court can order the transfer or settlement of a family home to a child or to their parent or guardian - if it's for the child's benefit. 

If you're legally ending your relationship - for example getting a divorce - the process for dividing your home is different.

You'll need the help of a solicitor if you want to apply for a property order.

You can get help finding free or affordable legal help. The Law Society also has advice on finding and working with a solicitor.

You’ll normally need to show that you’ve tried mediation before you apply to court. There are exceptions that mean you don’t have to try mediation first - for example, if you’ve experienced domestic abuse. Check how mediation works.

Who can apply 

You can apply for an order if you're a parent or guardian of a child under the age of 18, or if you are named as a person who the child lives with in a child arrangements order.

A child can include a child from the marriage or civil partnership and step-children. It doesn't include a foster child who has been placed with you by the local authority or a voluntary organisation.

Types of orders the court can make

The court can make the following orders for the benefit of a child:

  • a 'settlement of property' order - for example where the family home is kept and used by one spouse or civil partner until the child reaches 18. At that stage the home could be sold and the proceeds divided, it could become the child's property, or it could revert to the original owner

  • a 'transfer of property order' - the property is transferred to a parent or guardian, or the child. The court may be reluctant to transfer the home to one spouse or civil partner outright mainly because an order is intended to be for the benefit of the child rather than for the benefit of either partner.

How the court makes its decision

The Children Act 1989 sets out several things that the court must look at when making its decision. The court must consider all the circumstances of the case as well as:

  • the income, earning capacity, property and financial resources of the parents now and in the foreseeable future

  • the financial needs, obligations and responsibilities that the parents have now and in the foreseeable future

  • the financial needs of the child

  • any income or other financial resources that the child may have

  • whether the child has any disabilities

  • the way in which the child was being, or was expected to be, educated or trained.

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Page last reviewed on 15 December 2020