What Are The Property Rights of Unmarried Couples?

Property Rights of Unmarried Couples
Has your relationship broken down? The property rights of unmarried couples are different in many ways to the rights of married couples and those in civil partnerships. And please remember, there’s no such thing as a common law marriage.

So what are you going to do about:

  • property
  • assets
  • debts
  • your children

Home in joint names

Are you going to sell or is one of you going to buy the other out? But what’s your share? – if you own it in joint names you’re entitled to half of the net sale proceeds. So now’s the time to get some idea of the value from a couple of estate agents.

Declaration of trust

This sets out the shares in which you own the property. But not sure what it means or if it’s valid? Please don’t forget to consult an expert family law solicitor.

Cohabitation agreement

A cohabitation agreement is always a good idea, see my post 6 Things you must include in a cohabitation agreement. If you do have one it may set out the shares in which you intend to own the property. But do you own the property as tenants in common with a declaration of trust?

Tenants in common

See my post Shall I buy a house with my partner for a clear explanation of the difference between owning in joint names and owning as tenants in common. But even if you do own the property as tenants in common, is this backed up by a declaration of trust?

Can’t agree a sale or your respective shares 

You may have to make an application to Court under the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act. But save yourself time and money with an out of court settlement.  See my recent post How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration

Home in sole name

If you live in a property owned by your partner you may have a claim if:

  • you contributed to the purchase price (including making mortgage payments) or to the value of the property in money, or money’s worth. For example did you refurbish the property?
  • or perhaps your partner said you would always have a roof over your head.

You may have an interest in the property under trust law. But beware, these cases can be expensive and complicated. Try an out of Court approach first.

What about a home for the children?

You can make a claim for financial provision for the children including property or a share of property under Schedule 1 of the Children Act. Here again, try an out of Court approach first.

Other assets

It all comes down to ownership. If they’re in joint names, you’re entitled to half. If in sole name, they belong to just one of you.

What about debts?

If they’re in joint names, you’re jointly liable. If the debts are in your sole name, you’re solely liable.

Domestic abuse

You can make an application to the Court under the Family Law Act 1996 to:

  • protect you from domestic abuse and
  • protect your occupation of your home

Child maintenance 

Visit the Child Maintenance Options site and find out the best way to agree a family-based arrangement. You and your partner may be able to make your own arrangement about how much child support to pay. Here’s a link to an online child maintenance calculator

But if you can’t agree you’ll need to go through the Child Maintenance Service (and pay a fee). See my blog What are your child maintenance options.

Who are the children going to live with? Who are the children going to see?

Try to agree between yourselves. If you can’t, try an out of Court approach such as:

See my recent blog How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration

Parental responsibility

PR is all the rights and responsibilities of parenthood. For example, to be consulted on matters of education, religion, medical intervention. All mothers have it and unmarried fathers (or fathers not in civil partnerships) if they:

  • jointly register the birth of the child with the mother (from 1 December 2003)
  • enter into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
  • obtain a parental responsibility order from the Court

Here again, if you can’t agree, an out of Court approach may help.

If your partner has died

You may have a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family & Dependants) Act for financial provision from their estate if your partner:

  • didn’t make provision for you in their will
  • didn’t make sufficient provision, or
  • perhaps didn’t make a will at all

What Are The Property Rights of Unmarried Couples?

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial consultation on the question What Are The Property Rights of Unmarried Couples? In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post What Are The Property Rights of Unmarried Couples? are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image for What Are The Property Rights of Unmarried Couples? Couple at Each by Anuvand 68 on Wikimedia  

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How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration

Family Mediation Collaborative Law Arbitration
Family courts are full to bursting. Top family law judge, Sir Andrew McFarlane, says families need to find other ways to settle disputes. But is this realistic? “Yes,” says Joanne Houston of Just Family Law. “Out of court settlements provide solutions specially tailored to your family’s needs. You’ll save time and money, and you’ll be able to move forward amicably with your ex.”

DIY

The simplest approach is to negotiate directly with your ex although of course this isn’t always possible. If you’re able to discuss matters between you please make sure you take advice from an expert family lawyer . You need to know what you’re entitled to and how to protect:

  • yourself
  • your property and money
  • the children.

See my recent blog Financial settlement on divorce – How to get the best one for you

But if DIY is not for you, what are the options? Your solicitor can advise you of the most suitable route for you.

Leave it to the lawyers

Perhaps you’ll decide to negotiate with your ex through your solicitor. Because this in many ways remains the norm in relationship breakdown. Your solicitor will represent you and support you and will help you achieve your goals. You’ll be able to rely on their professional experience to communicate on your behalf with your ex’s solicitors. And you can attend roundtable meetings and your solicitor will represent you.

Mediation

Mediation is a fast, low cost solution where you are both directly in charge of the outcome. What does a mediator do? He or she will help you identify the issues between you and help you reach an agreement. If you can’t sit in the same room as your ex there can be ‘shuttle’ mediation. But please take legal advice alongside the mediation process. This is vital because the mediator can’t advise you of your rights. Which mediator to chose? Your solicitor will be able to recommend the most suitable mediator for your case.

Hybrid mediation

You both attend mediation and you take your solicitors along – helpful if there’s conflict between you, because the presence of solicitors will keep things objective. Your solicitor will even be able to speak on your behalf. Hybrid is also helpful where a legal issue is getting in the way of settling your dispute.

Collaborative law

A specially trained collaborative lawyer can help you reach an agreement tailored to your, and your family’s, individual needs. But how does this work? You and your solicitor, and your ex and their solicitor, all sign a Participation Agreement. This states you commit to reaching an out of court settlement. And if you don’t reach an agreement, your solicitor won’t be able to represent you in court – an incentive to finding a solution! What is the collaborative process? Your solicitor will be at your side to advise, support and speak for you at a series of roundtable meetings. And other experts can help if necessary. These include:

  • independent financial advisor
  • family consultant
  • child specialist
  • accountant

See my recent blog What is Collaborative Family Law

Collaborative law is a constructive process and you and your ex remain in control of it.

Arbitration

Arbitration is a relatively new option in family law but provides several strong advantages. But what’s an arbitrator? An arbitrator is a family lawyer – perhaps even a judge – with special training. You and your ex both agree to be bound by their determination. The arbitrator can look at all the issues – money and property and children. Or they can narrow it down to just one question such as where the children are to live. They’re also trained to listen to children. Arbitration is more flexible than court as you decide the venue and the timing. And it’s less formal – you can even ask for it to be conducted in writing.

Consent order

An arbitration provides you with a binding determination. But if you reach agreement through another avenue you’ll need the protection of a consent order sealed by the court. Your solicitor can help you with this. It’s a paper procedure and unlikely to involve a court hearing. But it’s vital because:

  • your ex will have to keep to what’s been agreed
  • you’ll be protected from future claims if eg you come into money.

See my recent blog How do I get a Consent Order

How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration

Contact Family Lawyer Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for an initial free of charge consultation on the question How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration. In this 20 minute session she will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family lawyers. We offer Pay as you go costs. We offer Collaborative law solutions tailored to your family’s needs.

The topics covered in this blog post How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration are complex. They are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog apply to you, seek expert legal advice.

image for How to Avoid Court – Family Mediation, Collaborative Law & Arbitration Woman redhead natural portrait by dusdin on Wikimedia

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