Where couples have been living together and separate the financial situation can be even more complex if ownership of assets has not been spelled out in detail because the Courts do not have the discretion they do in divorce proceedings in balancing all the S25 factors and have to have a stricter regard to property ownership, land and trust law.

A long period of cohabitation does not give rise to property rights or sharing of assets in the absence of an agreement and evidence of this and there is no such thing as 'common law' husband or wife.

Nor does a general contribution towards joint living expenses necessarily give rise to a claim against assets owned by the other party, even where it includes a payment towards a mortgage, in the absence of a clear agreement.

Where property is owned applications are dealt with under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 ('TOLATA') and the Court has power to declare what interest a person may have in the property, even if they are not already a registered owner and the Act sets out the factors to which a Court will take into account including the welfare of any child living in the property.

Another point to bear in mind is that cohabitees do not have a claim against a partner’s pension although the person whose pension it is may be able to nominate a beneficiary in event of death.

Also have a look at the Inheritance page for the difficulties that can arise where one party dies.

Contact us for advice on all issues relating to cohabitation and separation.