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We are unmarried but our relationship has broken down…..what are my next steps?

During these difficult times, relationships are under even more pressure than usual.  We often see a rise in enquiries following the Christmas period when families have spent a great deal of time together and finances are stretched but a further casualty of the coronavirus pandemic is an increase in relationship breakdowns.

If you have decided that your relationship has come to an end, living arrangements are often at the forefront of every couple’s minds. Whilst you may not be in a position to move out now, you may wish to give some thought to your options once everything returns to relative normality.

Property options

If you own a property with your ex-partner you will need to consider what you can or should do next. In an ideal world, the options are to sell the property and go your separate ways or to consider a transfer into one person’s name. The person who leaves will need to be satisfied that they can be removed from their mortgage obligations and receive their appropriate share of any equity.

If the property is to be sold then you must agree as to how the proceeds are divided. This final question is likely to have already been answered by the decision you made when you purchased the property. Was it in equal shares or did one party protect an initial investment?  Often we are asked to take into consideration improvements paid for by one party or capital repayments deducted from the mortgage.

House prices may be affected in the coming months and for a great number their income position is uncertain. A transfer or sale may not be the best option for you at this time.

Separation Agreements

Parties could agree on a course of action but delay this for a certain period of time. If you are able to reach an agreement then this could be documented in a Separation Agreement. This is a legal document signed by both parties. If one party breaches the agreement then the aggrieved party can apply to court and ask to enforce the terms.

Limited rights for unmarried couples

Couples should be aware that if any agreement cannot be reached by negotiation or mediation then court action could be considered as a last resort.  Unmarried couples have limited legislation at their disposal and as such they are limited to dealing with jointly owned property. It is often commented by unmarried parties that they have similar if not the same rights and obligations as those who are married. This is not the case. Unmarried couples cannot bring claims for spousal maintenance or pension provisions.

Our Cohabitation Specialist Lucia Mills is able to offer 30 minutes of free initial advice for those who would like to discuss their options.

Contact Lucia Mills at lucia.mills@wards.uk.com


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