Cohabitee disputes

It is important to dispel the myth of the ‘common law wife’. There is no such thing – you are either married or not – and your rights, your financial claims and your obligations are entirely different depending on such status.

Many couples live together, buy homes together and have children together without a thought to the implications if their relationship then breaks down.

If you own a home with someone to whom you are not married you have to rely on the law of trusts in making any claim for an interest in the property. If you are on the legal title you may feel there are reasons why you or your former partner should have a greater or lesser than equal share. If you are not on the title of the property you may have reasons to think you own an interest. We can advise claimants and respondents on all these issues and explain in simple terms the nature of a trust (both constructive and resulting) that can give rise to a beneficial interest. We can also advise on promissory estoppel. In all cases we can assist in negotiating a transfer or a sale and a consequent division of the proceeds.

If you have children and are unmarried then child support will be governed by the Child Support Agency unless one party resides out of the jurisdiction or the absent parent’s income is very high, when the court can then deal with the case.

In addition to child support, there may be claims by the parent with care of a dependent child for a lump sum for essential purchases or for providing a home – these can be made under Schedule 1 Children Act 1989. Again we have experience of acting in these cases, which are every bit as difficult to resolve as disputes between married couples, in particular because there is no consolidation of the legal remedies for these families.