01708 757575 mbs@ker.co.uk Enterprise House, 18 Eastern Road, Romford, Essex UK, RM1 3PJ

Unmarried Couples Beware

Patricia Jones, the woman at the centre of last week’s Supreme Court case to determine what share her former cohabiting partner is entitled to in the family home, has discovered that the lack of any formal arrangement at the time she purchased her property has resulted her ex partner sucessfully claiming 50% of the current value.

This is despite the fact Mrs Jones and her ex partner split up around 18 years ago, in 1993, after sharing a home in Thundersley, Essex, for only eight years.

Jones paid the £6,000 deposit and mortgage on the £30,000 bungalow while her ex partner paid £100-a-week “expenses”. He moved out in 1993, paying no maintenance for their two children, now both in their 20s. Jones continued paying the mortgage and the ex partner bought his own property in 1996.

In 2008 a county court judge determined that the ex partner was entitled to £24,000 or 10% of the property’s value. He appealed last year and was awarded 50% (around £120,000) on the grounds that the couple owned equal shares when they separated and neither had done anything to change the situation since.

Cases concerning the distribution of cohabitees’ assets often end with results contrary to common sense or fairness and often it is the women who lose out especailly where the property is retained in the sole name of the man. For further details see http://tinyurl.com/6cn9x35

If you are entering into a long term relationship you take steps to protect yourself early on, including:

  • When buying a home get legal advice and in most cases get a trust deed drawn up – how you establish ownership can make a big difference if you split up. If you own your home as joint tenants, you own it jointly and equally. If you split up and sell it, you will normally get half, no matter how much you contributed. If one of you dies the other will automatically get the house. If you buy as tenants in common you can own uneven shares in the property. If one dies his or her share will go to the beneficiary named in the Will.
  • In all cases, if there are children a court can order the transfer of the home to the parent mainly looking after them. If part or all of the home is owned by the other it will revert to that partner when the youngest child turns 18.
  • Renting a home Consider putting both names on the tenancy. If only one is named that person can evict the other if you split up. If the named person leaves the remaining partner can ask the landlord to put his or her name on the tenancy – but he doesn’t have to agree.
  • Draw up a cohabitation agreement This forms a record of what each party is contributing to the household. A court can ignore it but will generally uphold it if what you agreed produces a fair outcome, neither party was under pressure and you were honest about your finances when drawing it up.
  • Make a Will – without one, your property and assets will all go to your blood relations if you die, and your partner may not even be able to stay in your home.
  • Children – if you are the father of children born before 1 December 2003 and have not married their mother you do not have parental responsibility unless you make an agreement with the mother or apply for a court order. Fathers named on the birth certificates of children born after that date automatically have parental responsibility.

Cheryl Low, our specialist family law solicitor can provide further advice on cohabitation agreements,  pre-nuptial agreements and divorce matters. Call Cheryl on 01708 757575 or email: cheryl.low@ker.co.uk


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