Unmarried Couples

There is no such a thing as a common law husband and wife. This is a myth.Family and matrimonial law Ridley & Hall

Cohabiting couples have very few legal rights over any assets or property owned by the other person. This is in stark contrast to the rights you have within a marriage. There are ways in which we can assist you to show you have directly contributed in some way and that it was intended that the two of you would both benefit from it.

If you are a cohabitee who is responsible for the care of children there are legal applications we can help you to make to secure financial support for your children.

We can also advise you prior to living with your partner on agreements that stipulate your living together arrangements.


What will happen to our property?

The starting point in deciding what should happen to a jointly owned property upon relationship breakdown is to look at how the property is owned according to the Land Registry. If you own the property as “joint tenants”, the starting point is that you own the property equally and have an equal share in the equity in the property.

If you own the property as “tenants in common”, the starting point will depend on what you decided when you purchased the property, you may each own 50% of the property, or different shares.

You may decide you want to sell the property and share the sale proceeds, or one partner may want to buy out the other person by paying them a lump sum in exchange for that person transferring their interest in the property.

You will need legal advice to help you to determine your interest and rights and decide a strategy for securing an outcome which meets your needs.

Do we have to enter into a written agreement?

Entering into a cohabitation agreement at the start of a relationship could prove very useful and act as a guide on how to deal with financial maters during your relationship and on separation.

As with all separations, there is no requirement that you enter into a formal written legal separation agreement. However, so that everybody is clear about what is going to happen following a separation, we always advise that a formal written agreement, known as a Separation Agreement is signed by both parties. If there is a later dispute you will have a written record of the arrangements you have agreed. We will prepare your bespoke agreement for you.

Will we have to go to court?

Most unmarried couples, upon ending their relationship manage to reach an agreement about finances and property without having to go to Court.

Many people can reach an agreement on how to separate directly between themselves, but need to secure legal advice to record the outcome of the agreement to ensure it cannot later unravel. Some couples find it very difficult to communicate and need with the help of solicitors who can negotiate and secure an agreement. We can do this for you.

Some separating couples may choose to go to mediation to help them come up with a solution about what will happen to their property and a mediator can draw up an agreement that both parties sign. We can advise you on your legal rights and refer you to mediation, providing you with support through the mediation process.

If you can’t reach an agreement on how to separate you may have to go to Court to ask a Judge to decide.

Going to Court can be extremely complicated and stressful. There are certain steps that must be taken before proceedings can be issued; these steps are designed to help parties reach an agreement without going to Court. We can guide you through the process and represent you in Court proceedings to help you to secure a fair outcome.

How much will it cost me?

The costs estimate we will give you will depend on how complex your case is. If you have a lot of assets that need to be sorted out, inevitably the case will cost more.

Costs will also be dependant on how much negotiating we need to do on your behalf.

We are able to offer fixed fees in certain circumstances. We will advise you whether we think your case is suitable for a fixed fee.

If you have to go to court the usual rule in civil proceedings is that ‘costs follow the event’. Put simply, this means that usually the losing party pays the costs of the successful party. However, a Judge has a wide range of powers when it comes to making costs orders. If he or she believes that one party has behaved unreasonably, for example by refusing to attend mediation, then a Judge can decide you are not entitled to your costs even if you are successful at Court. We can advise you through every step of the process to ensure you achieve a fair outcome.

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