Do many people actually believe in the concept of “common law marriage”?
In my experience, it is generally understood that your financial claims
on separation against your ex will only be significant if you were married, hence
all those juicy divorce headlines in the newspapers.
But people are less clear on what, (if anything), they can claim
if they separate after living with girlfriend or boyfriend.
I often see clients
who bought a home with their partner and contributed financially, but the house
was put in their partner’s sole name.
That means that my client has no legal interest in the house. To succeed with a claim for a share of the
equity, they will have to produce evidence of financial contributions, any
agreement that the property was to be shared and/or prove that they relied on
this agreement to their detriment.
Cases are decided
according to strict property law and the court will take into account who paid
for the property at the time of the purchase, who has paid for any later work and
who has made the mortgage payments. The
court will also look in detail at what the parties said to each other. It can be tricky to remember what happened
many years ago, papers may have been lost or destroyed and it can be hard to
get hold of old bank statements. But
large amounts of money may be at stake and succeeding with a claim could mean
securing a home for life.
I would always recommend negotiation first and have found alternative
dispute resolution (such as mediation) to be very successful. But if that fails, an application to court
would be necessary.
What about other assets such as savings? Again, claims can be made
against assets if there is evidence of a contribution or an agreement. But all of these claims have to be
evidentially based. That is the big
difference between being married or not – if you did not “tie the knot”, then
you cannot claim maintenance or other payments based on need.
The one exception is that unmarried parents can make claims on behalf of
their child and to assist them with the costs of childcare.
is vitally important that people understand their rights (or the lack of them)
and understand what they can do to protect their finances. This is why I support the Resolution campaign