Cohabitation is when a couple live together without being married or in a civil partnership. In the event of the relationship breaking down either party may need advice on their financial and property claims.
“Common-law” marriage is not a recognised legal status and, therefore, the law and entitlement is different for an unmarried couple compared to a married couple. Traditionally, marriage has a special status in law and affords married couples more security on the termination of their relationship and gives significant legal protection compared to the unmarried where it is limited.
At Hodge Jones & Allen, our team of specialist family lawyers understand how much housing and financial provision affect your and your family’s quality of life. Therefore, we work to resolve it as soon as possible, putting your needs first!
Unmarried couples often bring assets to the new relationship. The legal issues faced maybe complex.
When a cohabiting couple breaks up, each person leaves the relationship with ownership of their own property held in their sole name regardless of how long they have lived together. However, the difficulty may arise when there is a dispute i.e. if the other party contributed financially to the property or they claim there was a common intention that the other has a beneficial interest in the property shared with the other.
Is the non-owning party then entitled to a share of the property?
It depends. A beneficial interest in a property can arise by an express written declaration or agreement (express trust) but when neither is present, any beneficial interest has to be worked out and this is a detailed retrospective and forensic exercise.
These can arise when there is a disagreement over how children are to be provided for. When the cohabitating couple have a child, any settlement or court Order can include the settlement of property for the benefit of a child and also Orders for maintenance or lump sums for the child. Orders can also be made against a non-resident parent if he/she is not a resident of the UK. There are many more Orders that the court can make in respect of providing for the child or for the benefit of the child.
The court has discretionary powers to make provision for a claim out of a deceased person’s estate in certain circumstances. This is because unmarried cohabitants do not automatically inherit on the death of their partner. For example, if a couple live together without being married and without a will, when one dies and in the absence of children, the net estate of the deceased will go to the deceased’s relatives to the exclusion of the surviving cohabitant. If there are children, then the net estate will go to them.
A cohabitant may be able to make a claim for maintenance which is for “reasonable financial provision” and if the Applicant succeeds, the court may make a number of Orders including interim Orders if there is an immediate need for financial assistance. Cohabiting couples are therefore advised to make wills to prevent this problem. There is a time limit to bring any claim.
If you have been unable to deal with a property dispute or financial settlement for the benefit of a child in relation to an unmarried couple, contact our specialist solicitors for a fixed fee initial assessment and to discuss your funding options.
We will assess your case for legal merits and then if there is a legal case we will allocate your matter to the most appropriate team.
Once you have been taken on by our solicitors we will then talk through your options and provide you with the best approach for a successful solution.
Our family team have been passionately representing unmarried couples for over 40 years. Our solicitors will fight on your behalf to get you the best outcome possible and are passionate about what they do. We are also highly ranked in the Legal 500 for our work and are members of Resolution. Get in touch
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