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If you have lived together as man and wife and have never married, the terms of your separation will be significantly different to those of a married couple. Despite the common misconception that a cohabitation which lasts for a period in excess of six months is as good as a marriage, the reality is very different.
Unless you are able to establish that you have contributed towards the acquisition of an asset or you say that there was an intention that the property would be jointly owned, there are probably limited claims you can make when your relationship breaks down.
What about jointly owned property?
Any property you own jointly may need to be sold. The distribution of the net sale proceeds will in most circumstances be governed by the terms of the document you agreed and signed when you purchased the property. For example, if you purchased on a 50:50 basis then the likelihood is the starting point will be a 50:50 split of the net sale proceeds. Similarly, if you set out a document establishing your respective contributions towards the purchase price and they were something other than a 50:50 split then that document will be your starting point. If at a later date you agree to depart from that original agreement or take action which could be implied as an agreement to depart from that position, the Court can be persuaded to distribute the net sale proceeds differently. You can ask the Court in those circumstances to take into consideration your respective conduct during the course of the relationship. Unlike the assets in divorce proceedings a Court cannot use their discretion or distribute in a manner which is fair and reasonable. The existence of an agreement departing from the original terms upon which you acquired the property must be found to exist in the first instance.
What if we had children together?
If there are children, the Court can make an order for capital to be provided for the benefit of your children, for example to provide a home for the children until such time as they finish their education. If you succeed in such a claim, any capital provision made available for your housing would need to be repaid to your partner once the children have finished their education.
What about maintenance?
If you have children, maintenance will be payable and will be assessed by the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) if not agreed. That sum will remain payable (albeit subject to variation from time to time) until the children have finished their education. Maintenance is not payable for you as a cohabiting partner and that is the case even if you have been living together as man and wife for many years and have children together.
If you would like to discuss any aspect of family law, are considering divorce proceedings or a trial separation, or want to draw up a pre or post-nuptial agreement, call us in absolute confidence on 03456 381381. Alternatively, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.