When Cohabiting Goes Wrong

Contrary to common belief, cohabiting couples are afforded very little legal protection should the relationship fail, when it comes to dividing property and assets. Farleys’ dispute specialist Rachel Harrison and family law specialist Angharad Bentley offer their expert advice

According to data from the Office of National Statistics, 3.6 million couples in the UK are currently cohabiting (living with a partner while unmarried). This figure has increased by 22.9 per cent over the last decade, making it the fastest growing family type. However, many cohabiting couples are still unaware that they are not legally protected in the same way as those who are married or in a civil partnership.

Angharad Bentley says: “I am still so often approached by couples who believe they have legal protection as a result of being in a ‘common law marriage’, because they have been cohabiting for some time, or they have children together. Common law marriage is a myth. Sadly, unmarried couples have very limited legal rights and responsibilities towards each other if the relationship breaks down.

“For this reason, if you’re considering cohabiting with your partner, we would advise you to take specialist legal advice to discuss your options.”

In the absence of a clear agreement or legal documentation, unmarried couples on separation may have limited remedies available to them.

“If you separate from your cohabiting partner, where possible, you should try to reach an agreement about the future of the property, such as one of you buying the other out or selling the whole property,” explains Rachel Harrison.

“Where it’s not possible to reach an agreement about whether the property should be sold and/or the arrangements for the sale, then as a last resort, you should discuss with your legal advisor about making a TOLATA claim to resolve the issue.

“Claims under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA) can be made to the courts where property is in one party’s sole name or jointly owned.

“It is possible to ask the court to determine the proportions of ownership of the property, order the sale, the sale price and/or how the proceeds are to be divided.”

Before you commence a claim, it’s important to speak to a legal professional first to ensure this is the best route for you or to assist with reaching an agreement before a claim is necessary.

For advice and assistance, please contact Farleys Solicitors on 01254 368040, email: info@farleys.com or visit farleys.com



Tedd Walmsley

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Tedd Walmsley managing director of Live Magazines shares his views on the latest topics in media.

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