Cohabitation Disputes

For those who are not married or in a civil partnership the legal remedies are different and are more limited. Many consider that once they have been living together for a set period they are a common law husband or wife, which gives them certain rights. This is not the case. For example it is not possible to claim maintenance for yourself from a partner if you have not been married or entered into a civil partnership. This applies no matter how long you have lived together. Neither are you able to make a claim on your partner’s pension.

The situation is different if you have children together. Maintenance can be claimed for any child of the relationship by the parent with care from the absent parent. This can be agreed between you and confirmed in a written agreement or a claim can be made via the Child Support Agency. For more information on how to make a claim and how to calculate child maintenance please refer to the CSA website at www.csa.gov.uk.

Claims can also be made for financial provision via the Courts for any relevant children under the Children Act 1989. Such provision is not to be in place of child maintenance if this can be claimed via the Child Support Agency. Such claims can include a claim for a lump sum, for a property to be settled on the children until they reach majority, for school fees and for a child with special needs.

It is essential that you seek advice from a family law expert if you need to pursue such a claim.

If you own a property jointly with your former partner you may need assistance if there is no express declaration as to how the property is to be held and one of you is claiming more than 50%. The presumption is that you own the property in equal shares unless there is an express agreement to the contrary. It is for the person claiming a greater interest to show that the shared intention was that the property was to be held in unequal shares in the absence of an express agreement. This will be a heavy burden and it will only be in exceptional circumstances that the presumption will be rebutted.

The Court must take into account an extensive range of factors in ascertaining the true intentions of the parties; the nature of the parties relationship, how finances have been structured, any statements made by one party to the other, the reasons why the property was purchased in joint names, the purpose for which it was acquired, how the purchase was financed, any financial contributions both when the property was purchased and subsequently, whether the parties have children and any advice or discussions at the time the property was acquired to cast light upon the parties intentions.

Equally when a property is registered in the name of one party only the presumption is that only that party has any interest in it. It will be for the person who is not an owner and is claiming an interest to rebut the presumption.

This is a complex area and legal advice must be sought from a family law specialist.

At PJH solicitors we have the necessary expertise and have successfully advised numerous clients in this area.