Blog: Many people think just by living together that they can be protected financially if a breakdown of the relationship occurs. They ‘trust’ their partners or ‘common law spouse’ as they are often called to deal with matters sensibly.
However, the law does say differently and where a spouse may have protection of the law if they are married, a ‘common law spouse’ is not a spouse in any way and so does not have the same protection of the law as a married couple. Therefore it is very much down to the ‘trust’ between the parties if they do not take steps to protect themselves.
It can be seen as unromantic looking at how a property can be split up at the start of the relationship but partners should be very much aware of the full implications that tick boxes on the land registry forms can have. You could change your entitlement in life or in death just by making a decision between tenants in common or joint tenants.
If the property is owned by one party this can also cause a number of difficulties in the other party seeking to obtain their interest at a latter point on separation. This is where a trust of land claim could come in handy but involves an application to court and so consideration must be given to costs and time involved in this.
If there are children involved then an alternative option is to use an often underused area of family law called schedule 1 claims, these are where applications can be made to transfer the property that the children are living in for their period of minority.
Therefore, whilst cohabitees can take action in the event of a breakdown, these can be time consuming and costly. It is therefore sensible to discuss in advance when moving in together how property should be held. If you cannot discuss this sensibly at the start – how can you ‘trust’ it will be dealt with amicably on any breakdown?
Caroline Andrews is a member of the family team and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01277 268 349.