If you are living together with your partner you may think that you have some sort of “common law marriage” and enjoy similar rights and protection as married couples.
Unfortunately, this is a myth and even if you have cohabited for many years and/or have children together, you DO NOT have any of the rights afforded to couples on the breakdown of their marriage or civil partnership. The court process can certainly settle any dispute, but under the law, a judge may have little discretion to rule in your favour, however sympathetic he/she may be.
BEFORE things start to unravel it is important that you take specialist legal advice So as to protect your legal position, both in relation to any PROPERTY you might own with your partner and also to regulate arrangements for care and maintenance of your CHILDREN in the event of separation.
The Supreme Court has changed the way in which courts will look at how co-habitees own their property.
In the absence of agreement between the co-habitees as to how those shares are held by them, the Court will decide the shares on the following basis:
As a starting point, the Court will check to see how the property was bought. If in joint names the Court will presume that the parties intended equal shares, unless the evidence is clear that it was otherwise.
However, this presumption can be challenged by evidence showing that their intention was different, either at the time the property was purchased or later.
Where it is not possible to infer what was intended (eg where the evidence is not clear and the parties dispute what was intended), the Court will work out what is a fair division by looking at their “course of dealings” for the property.
Whilst the Court will of course take into account the financial contributions made by the parties (both at the time of purchase and through ongoing contribution to its running costs - mortgage, insurance, repairs, refurbishments etc), it will also take into account all other relevant circumstances in deciding what is a fair division.
If you think that this change may affect you, we strongly recommend that you seek legal advice.
If the relationship has already broken down it is essential that you get specialist legal advice on all areas relevant to your circumstances as soon as possible. The main issues and risks you will have to consider are:
Cohabitation Law Services
- Being refused access to your children
- Ownership of residential and personal property
- Dealings with the Child Support Agency
- Threats of physical violence
For more detailed information on all of these considerations read our Helpful Download - "Cohabitation: Understanding My Rights and Risks"
How we can help you
It is possible to protect you, your children and your property by entering into a written agreement with your partner BEFORE anything goes wrong and even if you have already split up.
The sooner you take action the better and a short phone call to one of our team can get you started.
Please note that Curwens is unable to offer advice under Legal Aid.
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