Unmarried Couples Disputes

Unmarried couples do not have the same automatic rights as married couples if their relationship breaks down. The family law solicitors at Sugare & Co can provide you with legal advice if you live or have lived with your partner without being married and there is a dispute over property or children. We can also assist if you are about to live with a partner to ensure that any assets are suitably protected.  Cohabitation law is a complex area and it is vital you obtain expert advice before it is too late.

To speak to a specialist lawyer about your rights, get in touch today. Either call us on 0113 244 6978 or fill in our online enquiry form and we will call you back.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding written agreement signed by two people who are or are shortly to start living together and it sets out their financial commitments to one another. Some examples of what can be included in an agreement are as follows:

  • Detail what will happen to the family home if there was a separation
  • How monies will be divided if there was a separation
  • How much each partner will pay towards household expenses, e.g the mortgage and utilities
  • Confirm who owns certain items, e.g cars and jewellery

The key purpose of a cohabitation agreement is to minimise the uncertainty that arises from the separation of an unmarried couple.

Types of Cohabitation Disputes

The family law solicitors at Sugare & Co advise cohabitees on their rights on a variety of cohabitation disputes. The key areas of dispute relate to property disputes and child maintenance issues.

Property Disputes

While the courts have a broad discretion to achieve fairness on divorce, when the parties are not married, the strict laws of property apply. The way the law is applied depends on how the way in which the property is owned

Sole Ownership – A common scenario is that a property is owned by one unmarried party, but the other party has lived there for a long time and has financially contributed. Generally, if the property is only in one person's name, the other person is not automatically entitled to anything, no matter how long they have lived in that house. The exception to this is if they can establish that they have a legal interest, usually in the form of an 'implied trust', The solicitors at Sugare & Co use our skill and expertise to ensure all legal avenues are considered and that your interests are served.

Joint Ownership - Unless there is a deed of trust which sets how the property is owned, the law will assume that both parties own it equally. This is the case even if one person has made a larger financial contribution. However, it is sometimes possible to argue that the property is not owned in equal shares if the circumstances dictate this.  

If one person is contributing more money toward the purchase of a property, it is sensible to have a deed of trust drawn up at the time of the purchase to make it clear that one person owns more.

You should consider severing the joint tenancy if you have separated or intend to sepaate and hold the property as joint tenants.

Can I force my partner to sell our house?

If only one person is the owner the other is still protected and cannot be locked out or forced to leave. However, the cohabitant’s right to occupy the home is not automatic and he or she has to have the right agreed by your partner or authorised by a Court.  A sole owner can sell the property without the partners permission unless a restriction is entered by the land registry.

When both cohabitants are owners then neither can insist that the other move out and if there is a disagreement as to whether the house should be sold then a court will need to decide this issue. However, this can be complicated and there are a number of rules that need to be complied with.

A range of factors must be taken into account when considering what happens to the family home after separation. It’s important to obtain legal advice regarding your situation.

Financial Provision for Children

If you have children but are not married or in a civil partnership with the other parent, the Court has the power to make financial orders under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. The Court can make a range of orders, e.g. requiring a parent to pay child maintenance, transfer a property or pay a lump sum to the other parent for the benefit of the child(ren).

In terms of child maintenance, most cases are dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service, but Judges can order that any maintenance calculation is topped up if the paying parents income is more than £156,00 per year.

The amount and type of provision will depend very much on the individual circumstances of each.

Child Maintenance can be calculated using the child maintenance calculator (opens new window).

Custody Disputes

Unfortunately, it is common for there to be disagreements between where children should live or how often they should spend time with each parent.

The family law solicitors at Sugare & Co have a vast wealth of knowledge and experience to help you with this difficult area of law.

Please visit our Children Law page for further information as to how we can help.

Talk to Us

Need some advice on any of the areas discussed above? If so, contact one of our experienced solicitors now by calling 0113 244 6978 or request a call back using our enquiry form.