If a cohabiting couple separates following relationship breakdown, one person may be left more vulnerable in the resulting fallout than the other. Unless the couple previously negotiated a cohabitation agreement, it is unlikely that clear stipulations will be in place to ensure fair division of any property and wealth the couple may have amassed during the lifetime of the relationship.

Regardless of how long an unmarried couple has been living together, there are no laws that will grant them automatic entitlement to each other's property or require one to offer the other financial support. Therefore, it is entirely possible for one partner, if they had no stake in the house or were being supported by the other's income, to be suddenly left with no financial security or home.

A family law solicitor can help cohabiting couples who are separating find a fair and just outcome and make sure that any party is left at a financial disadvantage. Enlisting the help of one of Oratto's member family lawyers can help separating couples ensure that they will be able to hold on to what is rightfully theirs in the aftermath of a relationship breakdown.

This includes a share in a family property.

Cohabitation agreement

When entering a long-term relationship with a partner and deciding not to marry or enter into a civil partnership, it is advisable that couples have a cohabitation contract or separation deed drawn up by a solicitor. This could be a formal agreement that will state who has ownership of the home along with their right to live in the property. Although not legally binding, any such expression of intention regarding family property may help make the division of assets more straightforward in the event of a separation.

Proving beneficial interest in a family property

If the property is owned by one partner or no specification has been made as to the division of ownership on joint title deeds, the parties to the property dispute may still be able to prove to a court that they are entitled to a specific share of value through other means, this is known as proving beneficial interest. For instance, if one party has put a considerable amount of money towards the property, such as helping to pay off part or all of the mortgage, paying the deposit, or covering the cost of any renovation and building work, then the court may decide that they have a right to a specific portion of the property's value.

However, for the court to recognise a non-owner's interest in a home, the intentions of these payments must be proven.

Owning a property in joint names

Usually, when a property is jointly-owned by a married couple, they are both entitled to a half share unless they agreed differently beforehand and this can be proved via the title-deeds. When unmarried partners are unable to reach an agreement about what will happen to the property or are in contention about their rightful share, they can take the matter to court.

The judge will decide how much interest each owner has in the property and whether one party should stay living there for the time being (perhaps to bring up children until a time at which they are independent). This will be determined, again, by looking at each person's financial contributions to the property. If it's decided that the property will be sold, then the proceeds of the sale will be split accordingly with the judge's ruling.

Settle a property dispute with a lawyer from Oratto

If you and a cohabitating partner have decided to end your relationship and are having a dispute over the ownership of family property, get in touch with an Oratto lawyer today. In property disputes, it is important that you have a skilled lawyer who is able to prove that you receive your deserved share. Our family law solicitors will make sure that you are not unjustly stripped of any assets, including your share in a property.