Unfortunately many cohabitants don’t realise the pitfalls of cohabitation as opposed to marriage until the relationship breaks down.
The main problem is that there isn’t a legal framework to protect or assist separating cohabitants. Cohabiting couples have virtually no protection on relationship breakdown as the law affecting them at the end of their relationship takes no account of their relationship and does not try to achieve a fair outcome between former cohabitants.
There is no legal provision for the payment of maintenance, even on a limited basis, to enable a person to get back on his or her financial feet after a relationship breakdown. Therefore a mother who has given up work to look after a child from the relationship or put a career on hold cannot apply for assistance while the children are very young or until she re-trains. While maintenance claims for children can be made under separate laws, payments will end when the children leave home.
When trying to determine the ownership of a property, the courts have no power to override the strict legal ownership of property and divide it as they may do on divorce. The courts may only make orders based on a determination of shares which have been acquired in the property in circumstances where the legal rules of trusts or proprietary estoppel apply. These rules are technical but essentially, the party who has no legal interest in the home may be found to have a beneficial (or equitable) interest in the property. The apparent intentions of the parties may be relevant in deciding the proportion of the property owned by each party. The length of time the partners have cohabited is not necessarily relevant.
Please contact us f you would like to further information about divorce or relationship breakdown or to arrange a free initial meeting.