Cohabitation Disputes

Cohabitation Disputes

There is no such thing as “common law husband or wife”, the law does not provide protection in the same way it does to married couples.

Unmarried couples splitting up often have one or more of the following issues:

Child Maintenance

Child maintenance is payable no matter what your marital status is.

Here is the government calculator to work out what amount of child maintenance you should be paying/receiving.

Ownership of houses

Legal Ownership

The legal ownership of a property is essentially the official or formal owner of a property that is recorded on the title deeds.

Property is owned as “joint tenants” or “tenants in common”, when you purchased the property this would have been discussed with you but if you can’t remember you can obtain a copy of the title deeds from the Land Registry at a cost of £3.00.

  • Joint tenants – you own the property in equal shares regardless of who paid what into the property.
  • Tenants in common – in equal shares
  • Tenants in common – in shares that you specified at the time

You may have a declaration of trust that was drafted when you purchased the property which protects your contribution.

It is incredibly difficult to persuade a court that the ownership of a property should be different to that recorded on the title deeds although there are some very limited exceptions.

Beneficial Interest

Did you move in with your partner who already owned the property or for some reason only one of you was put onto the deeds at the time of purchase?

This is where it starts to get complicated you have to rely upon trust law to prove an interest in the property, either an “implied resulting” or “implied constructive trust” or by way of “proprietary estoppel”.

An “implied resulting trust” occurs when you have made a direct contribution to the purchase price, you would expect to receive a sum in direct proportion to the financial contribution made.

An “implied constructive trust”, firstly the court has to determine whether there was an express agreement, arrangement or understanding between the parties.

If there is no express intention, can the intention to share be inferred?

Was there a direct contribution to the purchase price by the party that was not a legal owner (could be a lump sum or payments of the mortgage)

Were there contributions in kind? ie significant manual labour contributions?

If no, then the claim fails.

If yes, then the court will have to establish detrimental reliance (a promise that caused harm) before moving on to working out how much the claim is worth in monetary terms.

“Proprietary Estoppel” is similar to an implied constructive trust, it is essentially an enforceable promise – it occurs where there has been no financial contribution made but a promise was made between the parties and one party acted to their detriment in reliance upon the parties.

Still with me?

It is a complicated and difficult area of law but one in which I have had great success. I recently successfully defended a beneficial interest claim, the Defendant was forced to pay a substantial sum of money plus all my client’s costs. It was unfortunate for the defendant that he was simply not interested in negotiating and taking a sensible view, however my client was extremely happy with the outcome.

Contact Us to arrange a free consultation with a cohabitation agreement solicitor.