To make an appointment with one of our family law solicitors to talk about matters relating to cohabitees, please call our Birmingham office on 01212482850.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a ‘common law marriage’ under UK law. If you are living with your partner and the relationship ends, or your partner dies, the laws of England and Wales provide far less protection than if you were married or in a civil partnership.
At Sultan Lloyd Solicitors, we understand that this news can come as quite a shock, particularly if it is discovered in the midst of an already upsetting and stressful time. Nighat Sultana, who has many years’ experience in family law and follows the Resolution ethos which is designed to allow couples to work out family related disputes among themselves, leads our family law department. She encourages a culture of sensitivity within her team, as well as ensuring members of the department are up-to-date on the changes affecting family law in England and Wales. This gives our clients confidence that they are receiving the best legal advice available in the Birmingham region.
What Happens to Assets when Couples who live Together Separate?
Due to the lack of a specific legal framework under UK law for couples who live together, the task of dividing property fairly following a separation can quickly become complicated. To avoid this situation occurring, it makes good sense to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement, which will outline how property and assets are to be divided in the case of the relationship breaking down. You can read more about these here.
When it comes to dividing the family home, much will depend on whether you own the property as joint tenants or tenants in common. If you own the property in a joint tenancy, the property will be divided 50/50 upon separation. Tenants in common have shares in a property; however, these are not necessarily 50/50; one party may only be entitled to a 25% share of their home, which may come as a shock, especially if you have invested a lot of time and money into the property, which has led to an increase in its value.
However, the most common situation we encounter is where one partner does not have their name on the deeds to the property at all. This means the un-named partner may find themselves with no rights to any equity derived from the property, and the named owner can ask them to leave their home immediately. In this situation, we can make an application to the Court under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. The Court will then consider all the evidence and make a decision concerning who is entitled to what from the property.
Other assets such as joint bank accounts and furniture must also be divided and we can assist you in negotiating an equitable settlement. We can even advise you on the law concerning the ownership of your family pets.
Arrangements for children also need to be made, and Nighat and her team will ensure that you receive the best legal advice available, allowing you to negotiate a peaceful arrangement between you and your ex-partner that will work for your family as a whole.
What Happens if my Partner Dies?
Unlike with marriage, you will not be your cohabitee’s next of kin when your partner dies, which can be a devastating discovery. This means that unless you are named in your partner’s Will you will not automatically be entitled to anything. Even if you do receive an inheritance under the terms of a Will, you may still have to pay inheritance tax because there is no exemption in the same way that there is for married couples.
If you were not named in the will you might still be able to make a claim for a financial settlement if you had lived together as husband and wife for at least two years and you can show that you were financially dependent on your partner but this can be a time-consuming, complex and expensive process and you should always seek legal advice if you intend to do this.
Sultan Lloyd Solicitors is open from 9am till 5.30pm, Monday to Friday. Our office in Birmingham is convenient to Walsall, West Bromwich, Sutton, Solihull, Dudley, Aldridge, Halesowen and other local towns in The West Midlands and beyond. However, if you work full time and can’t see us during the week, we offer pre-arranged Saturday appointments for your convenience.