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Cohabitation Breakdown - Sorting out the Finances
01 Apr 2019

There is no such thing as common law marriage. If you have been in a relationship and living with your partner, it doesn’t make any difference how long the relationship has been in existence, should your relationship breakdown.

The law simply doesn’t recognise common law marriage as a status, therefore, there is no tailor-made legal framework designed to be applied when these relationships break down:

What about the house?

Deciding how the property that you shared with your former partner is dealt with is often the most important issue that needs to be settled. You might have received some legal advice when the property was purchased, and if as a result you recorded the exact share of the property that each of you own, it will now be used to settle matters. (If you did not have such an agreement or only one of you bought the property as the sole legal owner, what happens then?)

We agreed what would happen if we separated, and we wrote it down:

A written agreement simplifies the question of who is entitled to what. If both parties had separate legal advice, the agreement is likely to be binding. If there were no solicitors involved, but there is still an agreement in writing, it is still a strong indication of what you both intended.

We both paid the deposit for the property, but only one of us is the legal owner:

If you purchased a property together and both of you contributed to the deposit, but only one of you is the legal owner, the law starts from a position that any contributions were meant to buy a stake in the property. In the absence of any evidence that the contribution was made by way of gift or loan, you could seek the return of the monies you invested. The position will be similar if you have made payments towards the mortgage.

My partner said that the house ‘belonged to both of us’ but I’m not the legal owner:

Sometimes a home will be in one name only, but the legal owner will have said that you both own it. This in itself will not give you a share in the home, but if you have spent money on the property in reliance upon the understanding that you own a share in the property, the law may recognise a claim. The size of the share of your interest largely will be based upon what is fair depending on what contributions have been made.

Children and the family home:

If you and your partner have a child, and you split up, it may have a very powerful impact on what happens to the ‘family home’ and also upon other future financial arrangements. The courts have a wide range of powers to make arrangements for the future security of children affected by the breakdown of unmarried parents including orders for the transfer of property and/or lump sum payments.

If you have an enquiry in relation to a Family law matter or simply want to speak to a member of our expert team, please get in touch.

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