January 23, 2012

Marital & Cohabitee Disputes

Written by Sara Plant

Sara Plant is a Partner at Peter Lynn and Partners and is a Law Society Accredited Family Panel Member. We met with Sara and asked her what advice can be given to protect people’s assets in both marital & cohabitee disputes?
Sara said, “At Peter Lynn & Partners we can help you take control of your assets and assist you to prepare them in the event of a future separation so that if the worst happens matters can be dealt with swiftly and amicably – married or unmarried.
“We have one of the largest Matrimonial Team of Solicitors in Swansea. We specialise in all aspects of Family Law including:

  • Divorce
  • Financial agreements
  • Property issues
  • Cohabitation disputes
  • New civil partnership
  • Child residency and contact arrangements
  • Domestic Violence

“We can help you consider your options and find the best way forward so that problems can be resolved as quickly as possible and you can get on with your life. We offer practical and compassionate advice and can refer people to mediation to help solve difficult situations.
We asked Sara to explain how different the law is between Marital & Cohabitee Disputes? Sara said: “It is estimated that there are more than two million cohabiting couples in England and Wales.  Cohabitee disputes are becoming increasingly common as couples choose to live together rather than entering marriage.
“Some people are under the misapprehension that once living together they are common law “husband and wife” and on separation are entitled to the same protection that they would have had, had they been married. This is not correct.”
A recent decision in the Supreme Court however,  has significant implications for the unmarried couple as it will allow the Court to consider the issue of ‘fairness’ if they are unable to firmly establish the parties intentions in respect of jointly owned property.
Sara explained the Case. “A couple Mr K and Ms J purchased a property jointly but separated some thirteen years later.  The couple had children and Ms J remained at the property with the children and maintained the mortgage solely for thirteen years.  Mr K then sought to realise his interest and the Court of Appeal ruled that Mr K was entitled to 50% of the value as the parties owned the property in equal shares.
“The Supreme Court took the view that in these circumstances an equal division was unfair and awarded Mr K 10% of the value of the home.
“This Judgement does promise more just outcomes for parties who have relatively few legal rights because they are unmarried.  It is essential that parties give consideration to what their intentions are during the period of their cohabitation to avoid incurring significant legal costs whilst any uncertainties are “battled” through the courts.  Parties should consider entering into Cohabitee Agreements setting out their agreed intentions.  Declarations of Trust can be drawn up at the time properties are purchased which can expressly stipulate who gets what in the event of a separation.
“All of our clients are at the very least entitled to a free half hour consultation to discuss their circumstances and we can undertake cases under the Legal Aid Scheme or on a privately paying basis. We try to prevent legal problems occurring; prevention is better than a cure.”
For more information on Peter Lynn & Partners or any of the points covered in this article contact Peter Lynn & Partners Head office.