There is no legal status such as “common law” husband and wife. The law refers to this sort of relationship as cohabitation.
What claims can I make against my partner?
Unlike a marriage situation, when a cohabitation relationship ends there is no legal requirement for maintenance to be paid by one partner to the other. When looking at the division of the couples’ property, there is no notion of fairness or reasonableness built into the law in the same way as a divorce.
What if we own property?
If a property is jointly owned and the deeds are in both parties’ names, you are entitled to your defined share of the property. If you do not own the property you will have to be able to prove some degree of ownership in order to obtain a share in the property. You will have to show you made a financial contribution or there was some form of common intention between you. In these circumstances it will be necessary to recall discussions or agreements that may have taken place many years before.
How do I force a sale of a jointly owned property or find out if I do have an interest?
You can make an application under Section 14 of the Trusts of Land Appointment of Trustees Act. This allows the court to make an order for sale in respect of a jointly owned property or if the property is only legally registered in one party’s name. The court can make a declaration saying whether you have a financial interest in the property and define the extent of that interest.
What factors do the court take into account?
In deciding whether or not to order a sale, the court have four factors to take into account. These are:-
- The intention of the person or persons who created the trust.
- The purpose with which the property subject to the trust is held.
- The welfare of any minor or occupiers who might reasonably expect to occupy the land subject to the trust as his home.
- The interest of any secured creditor or any beneficiary.
In certain circumstances this could delay the court making an immediate order for sale.
What if we have children?
If there are children of your relationship this will be a factor that the court will take into account. The parent with care will have an entitlement to maintenance by way of a Child Maintenance Service assessment (formerly Child Support Agency). It may also be possible to make an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act for a property adjustment order or lump sum order. Such an application however is not intended to confer a long term benefit on the parent of the child and the property would normally revert to the other partner on the child ceasing full time education.
What happens to our joint bank account?
If regular payments are made every month to and from a joint account, these may need to be changed. When changed without agreement, this can cause financial problems for one or more of the account holders. Disputes over who is entitled to money in a joint account, or liable for a joint debt often arise and action maybe required such as freezing the account to keep the situation under control.
Do I have any other protection?
Whether you are married or living with a partner, you are entitled to be protected from domestic violence. If you are subjected to harassment, abuse or violence from a partner or an ex-partner, proceedings can be taken for an Injunction under Part 4 of the Family Law Act.
Do I need to make a will?
It is advisable to make a will to ensure your affairs are handled as you would wish in the event of your death. Do not assume that what you want to happen will actually occur in the absence of a will. Guardians for children need to be appointed in the event of a parent’s death. Executors and trustees need to be chosen to handle the task of paying any debts and releasing your property and money to nominated beneficiaries. When you own property jointly will you want it to be sold to realise your interest or passed to the other joint owner(s)? If you have not made a Will, you could be leaving your family in a worse position than you intend. We can also assist you with a new Will, for more details click here.