What Are My Rights To Property After Separation If I Am Not Married?
An increasing number of couples choose to live together before they get married or enter into a civil partnership, with many deciding against a legal union altogether. However, the law governing the rights and obligations of unmarried couples is starkly different from that relating to spouses and civil partners. As a result, our expert family law solicitors are often approached by unmarried individuals asking, ‘What are my rights to property after separation if I am not married?’
If you are unmarried and keen to understand your rights, our family law solicitors can help. They will explain your legal position and advise on how you might protect yourself in the event your relationship breaks down. If you have already split from your partner, they will consider your entitlement to any assets, such as the marital home, and pursue a claim on your behalf where appropriate.
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What Are My Rights To Property After Separation If I Am Not Married And The Property Is Jointly Owned?
Many unmarried couples buy property together and own it jointly. When registering the property at the Land Registry, they can do so as either ‘joint tenants’ or ‘tenants in common’. Most couples choose to hold their property as ‘joint tenants’. It is the more straightforward option and means that each owns the whole property. A tenancy in common allows a couple to state the proportion of the property each partner owns. For example, if one partner made a considerably greater contribution to the purchase price, the couple might agree that ownership should be split in accordance with the purchase price contributions.
When an unmarried couple jointly own their property, they both have a right to continue living there when the relationship breaks down. When the property is sold, the proceeds of sale are split between the couple equally or in accordance with their respective shares.
What Are My Rights To Property After Separation If I Am Not Married And The Property Is Owned By My Partner?
When the property shared by an unmarried couple is owned solely by one partner, the non-owning partner has no entitlement to continue living there when the relationship ends. This is in contrast to the legal position of spouses and civil partners, who can remain in the matrimonial home until their divorce or dissolution has been finalised. If the property is sold, the non-owning partner has no automatic entitlement to a share of the proceeds of sale, regardless of the length of time for which they have been living there.
In some situations, a statute called The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 provides a lifeline to non-owning partners facing this problem. TOLATA claims arise most often in the context of unmarried couples but can be brought by anyone asserting a beneficial interest in a property. Crucially, when deciding a TOLATA claim, the Judge will seek to establish the parties’ intentions regarding the property, not what would be fair. If the Judge is convinced that the parties intended, notwithstanding the legal position, to own the property jointly, the claim will likely succeed. In such cases, the Judge can make a variety of Orders, including that the non-owning partner be entitled to continue living in the property or be given a share of the proceeds of sale. An example of the type of situation that a Judge might consider indicates an intention that the property be owned jointly is when the non-owning partner paid for an extension to the property. However, TOLATA claims are case-specific, and you should seek advice from specialist family law solicitors, like ours, who will review your circumstances and advise on the merits of your position.
How We Can Help
Our expert family law solicitors regularly assist unmarried individuals who do not own the property they share with their partner. For example, they might advise that you enter into a Cohabitation Agreement stating your intentions regarding the property and other pertinent aspects of your relationship, such as next of kin rights. If your relationship breaks down, you can ask the Court to enforce the terms of the Cohabitation Agreement if your partner refuses to adhere to them. If your relationship has ended, our family law solicitors will advise on the possibility of bringing a TOLATA claim against your ex-partner, and the likely Order the Court will make if your claim succeeds. However, our solicitors treat litigation as a last resort and will instead seek a swift settlement of the issue, using their negotiation skills and alternative dispute resolution methods, such as mediation, to achieve your desired outcome.
Whatever help you require, our family law solicitors will be by your side every step of the way.
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