Our Private Law department can offer advice and assistance to unmarried couples. The law relating to the division of capital assets for unmarried couples is completely different to the type of orders that can be made upon the dissolution of a marriage or a civil partnership. There is a misconception about the ‘common law marriage’. The principal issues which can be addressed by unmarried couples are an individual’s interest in a property or financial provision for children.
Where two individuals either own a property together, or if one individual made a relevant contribution to a property on the understanding that they would acquire an interest in it, then a party may be able to make an application under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act.
If you own a property as ‘joint tenants’ the law assumes that you intended to own the property in equal shares.
This can be altered by you both signing a deed declaring otherwise or, in very limited circumstances as a result of assurances provided to the extent that they create a trust. The Courts have made it clear that it should only be in an exceptional case that a trust is created over a joint tenancy in the absence of a deed.
When a couple reside together and one of them owns that property in their sole name it can be very difficult for the other individual to establish an interest in that property. If that individual has made a significant contribution to that property on the assurance that they would acquire an equitable interest in it, then a trust may have been created granting them a share in that property. The law relating to trusts is complex and involves civil procedure rules unlike most areas of family law. We have extensive expertise in dealing with such issues and can advise you whether you are trying to establish an interest or to protect your property.
If there are children of the family, and their main care provider has a lower income or fewer capital assets, then it may be possible to make an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. Such an application is to ensure that there is support for the children for their minority and could take the form of providing a lump sum or property to live in.