What happens when cohabiting couples break up?

Many couples make the decision to pool their resources and move in together to increase their buying power. This is great! But what many cohabiting couples don’t realise is that they have very little legal or financial protection relating to their property if the relationship breaks down.
Cohabiting couples do not have the same legal protection as married couples, no matter how long they have been together. The terms “common-law” and “de-facto partner” don’t exist in the eyes of English law, no matter how long the relationship. This is one of the biggest misconceptions about the rights of unmarried couples that live together – people think they have rights that in fact don’t exist in current law.

If an unmarried couple living together split up and the property is in one person’s name, the first step is to work out whether the other person has an interest in the property – for example, by paying towards the mortgage, helping with repairs or even having contributed to the deposit. However, if these contributions are not reflected within a written agreement setting out the respective shares of the property, the partner who is not named on the title deed may find themselves struggling to establish the extent of their share if they separate and, in extreme cases, without any rights to the home they have shared with their former partner.

There are ways to avoid this and so, ultimately, unmarried couples need to take extra care and obtain legal advice when purchasing a property to ensure that their arrangements are fair, and legally recognisable.

If you need advice about anything covered here, just call us on 01253 766866.


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Where there’s a will…

When dealing with a Probate, we often heave a sigh of relief when we see that the person created a Will.

Usually, the Will clearly sets out who the deceased wanted to have as their Executors (people responsible for dealing with their estate) and who they wanted as their beneficiaries

However, we’re coming across more estates where there is either an outdated will or a ‘Do It Yourself’ Will and there are issues with both.

Outdated wills

When you create a Will, you tend to do so based on your current circumstances which is good- we advise our clients to tell us what they would want to happen to their estate should they pass away the next day! But, it’s also important to consider the future. You might choose to leave everything to one person, but if that person predeceased you and your will doesn’t specify a substitute beneficiary then your estate will pass via the intestacy rules. This may mean it’s distributed to people you wouldn’t have chosen or it is given to the Government if you have no surviving relatives. It can be morbid to consider the ‘what if?’ dilemmas, but it will provide you with peace of mind knowing you have included a back up.

Another way a Will can be outdated is if you name a spouse who you then go on to divorce. Once a Decree Absolute is granted your spouse is treated as having pre-deceased you, so any reference to them in your Will is invalid. Similarly, if you create a Will and then enter marriage or a civil partnership this revokes any Wills previously made. As a rule of thumb, you should consider reviewing your Will after a life event and every 5 years.

DIY wills

Sometimes these estates are dealt with easily and without issue. However, we have encountered Wills where the wording has caused confusion and ambiguous interpretations. We have also dealt with Wills where the layout has not been accepted by the Probate Registry meaning additional documents have then had to be produced to prove the validity of the will.

This is just a brief introduction to the some of the problems encountered when dealing with Wills and estates. Hopefully, you will agree that it is important to create a will and seek legal advice from an experienced solicitor when doing so.

If you would like to create a Will or review your existing one, please do not hesitate to contact us.



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Separating? Consider your options…

When separating with your partner or spouse, it is not always possible to resolve matters between yourselves, without assistance – don’t worry and don’t be too hard on yourselves. There’s no need to be nervous either, the alternative is not always Court proceedings. There are numerous options available to separating couples; the trick is to find the one that is best for you.

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You could always start by trying mediation. A mediator is independent, will give you all of the information you need, support each of you in discussing whatever you need to sort out and help you to find solutions. You, your former partner and the mediator will have several meetings and when you reach an agreement, the mediator will recommend that you ask your lawyer to advise you further and draw up a document recording that agreement.

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Mediation on a “shuttle” basis

If you don’t like the idea of meeting with your former partner face to face, but mediation sounds appealing, it might be worth considering whether you can try mediation on a “shuttle” basis, where the mediator meets with each of you in separate rooms, moving between the two of you throughout your appointment.


If this isn’t working, but you would still like a solution without having to go to court, you could agree to seek advice from a collaboratively trained lawyer or attend arbitration. Arbitration is like a private court hearing at which the arbitrator will make a decision which will usually then become a court order, or legally binding decision. Further information can be found here: http://ifla.org.uk/

Court proceedings

If these fail and negotiations through lawyers have not worked either, court proceedings may be issued. Although proceedings are in process, your lawyer may continue to negotiate on your behalf. Most of the time, an agreement will be reached at some point during the process. If not, there will eventually be a final court hearing and a judge will make a final decision, providing the parties with a court order.


January Blues

Unfortunately the “January Blues” may be hitting you this month for more personal reasons than just the festive period being over. Relationships do not always work out, and sometimes it really is important to go with the mantra of a new year, a new start.

Here at Ascroft Whiteside we pride ourselves on giving a sympathetic and supportive service when it comes to dealing with family matters such as;

  • Divorce proceedings
  • Separation Agreements
  • Relationship breakdown
  • Consent Orders
  • Pre-nuptial Agreements
  • Advice and settlement of matrimonial finances and assets
  • Maintenance
  • Children issues, including contact and residence disputes
  • Transfer of matrimonial properties

Going through a divorce can be a difficult time and therefore it is important that you can find someone to help you with your needs. Here are a few essential facts that you may need to know about getting a divorce:

  • In order to start the divorce proceedings you need to fill in a divorce petition form. This needs to include your full name and address, as well as your husband or wife’s along with your marriage certificate.
  • If your partner has been unfaithful, it is important to know that if you name the person your husband or wife was unfaithful with they will also get a copy of the paperwork.
  • If you have children under 16 or under 18 in education you need to fill in another form that details the arrangements you have for childcare, maintenance and the contact you have with your children.
  • You will have to pay a £410 court fee to start the divorce and to send off your divorce petition – You may be able to get legal aid if you are on benefits or a low income.
  • Once you send off the divorce petition your husband or wife will get a notice of proceedings form and an acknowledgement of service form. They will have 21 days to respond, if they do not respond in this time you can continue with your divorce as if they have agreed.
  • When a divorce is defended or both sides file for divorce there is usually a court hearing to discuss the case.

Regardless of the reason you may need to contact us regarding family matters, we will offer a supportive service to provide you with the information you need. There may be fixed costs available in certain circumstances, but it is important to contact us to discuss any matters as well as if you have any other problems which are not listed above. We are here to help you with a few additional simple steps.