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Cohabitants Rights

The ending of a relationship can create many difficulties for cohabiting couples. One of the biggest challenges will be deciding how land and property is to be divided up, working out who gets to keep what after the divorce or separation is finalised. Getting the right legal advice can go a long way to help resolve these problems as quickly and as straightforwardly as possible.

If you are considering a cohabitation agreement or your relationship has come to an end, our lawyers will help protect your rights. We will put a robust strategy in place to safeguard your assets and ensure you maintain regular access to your children, through fair and considerate negotiations. 

Does my former cohabiting partner have automatic rights to my assets?

If you have been living with your partner as an unmarried couple, they do not have any automatic rights to your property or assets if the relationship ends. Similarly, they do not gain any rights to maintenance payments from you or access to your pension once you separate.

What is the legal process for deciding who gets what once a cohabiting couple separate?

There is no recognised legal process to decide this. Couples who have been married have the right to make a range of financial claims under the Matrimonial Clauses Act 1973, but there is no equivalent for couples who are not married. As a result, you cannot go to court to ask a judge to make a financial order in the same way a married couple can.

What happens if a cohabiting couple jointly owns property?

If your home is registered in the Land Registry in joint names, either of you can apply to the court for an order. What will happen to the property will depend on how you and your ex-partner ‘held’ the property.

The property will either be held as joint tenants or as tenants in common in equal or unequal shares. If it is held as joint tenants, the property will be sold and the profits shared equally between the two of you, unless there is a dispute that requires the court to decide on a different share. If it is held in common, the proceeds will be shared between you according to your share in the property.

What happens if my ex-partner does not want to sell the property?

You can make an application to the court for an order of sale. You should be aware that the court might decide to postpone such an order if there is a good reason for doing so, for example, if you have children and they are expected to continue living in the house.

What if the home is held in the name of only one of the parties?

It may be possible for the partner who is not listed as an owner to show they have an ‘interest’ in the property, and to claim a share of any sale as a result. This partner will need to show evidence of an implied, resulting or constructive trust in their favour. If this can be shown, the court may decide that they do have an interest in the property, even though they are not listed in documents as an owner.

The judge will then ask for a valuation of the property to be carried out for the parties to attempt to decide between them what share of the property they are each entitled to. If this cannot be sorted out between them then a full hearing will be organised with each party giving evidence and the judge making the final decision on what each party’s interest is. Going through this process can be very expensive, so it may be in everyone’s interests to reach an agreement without going to court.

What happens if the cohabiting couple has children?

It is possible for either party to make claims against the other for financial support to help care for the children. This can include asking the court to make an order that the wealthier partner provides the children, and their ex-partner if that is who the children will be living with, with somewhere to live. This will only be the case until the children reach adulthood – after this, the adult will not be entitled to live in a home provided by their ex-partner.

What is a cohabiting agreement?

This is a written agreement entered into by a cohabiting couple that sets out who owns property and its contents (and in what proportion), who maintains and pays for outgoings on the property, any property owned by one party alone, and what will happen in financial terms if the relationship ends. It can also include arrangements for your children. Cohabitation agreements are likely to be considered binding by the court provided both parties sought independent legal advice before signing the agreement.

Contact our Cohabitation Solicitors Chesham, Beaconsfield, Berkhamsted, Harrow and Chorleywood

Breakthrough Family Law’s experienced cohabitation lawyers assist clients from Chesham, Beaconsfield, Berkhamsted, Harrow and Chorleywood. By instructing one of our family lawyers, you’ll receive clear, straightforward advice and a personalised approach at all times to protect your position and that of your children. Contact us today on 01494 776 696 or using our online form to arrange an appointment with one of our team.

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