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Avoid Losing Money Splitting-up from a Partner You're Not Married To.

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One party of a couple who are divorcing has a right to claim some form of maintenance from ther ex-spouse if they are not in a position to support themselves, and to have a share in the assets considered to be "matrimonial property", whether they have contributed financially to the marriage or not. However, if the couple are unmarried, either party has no such rights, despite a long cohabitation, although there are rules regarding children and property.


If the separating couple have children and can't agree on with which party the children are to live and what should happen to their assets, such as the old home, either party can apply to the court to establish a claim on the children's behalf. Then the Child Support Agency can handle the children's maintenance: From March 2003, the CSA will allocate 15% of the couples net income for one child, 20% of that income for two and 25% for three children or more. This new maintenance scheme will eventually cover all previous maintenance arrangements, once it is seen to be functioning properly. If there are no children, the financially dependent half will, unfortunately, have no right to a claim for financial maintenance whatsoever, even though the cohabitation might have lasted for many years - there is no such term as common law wife in the arena of divorce.


Disputes over property, such as the home, can also be resolved by the courts. If ownership of the home is in joint names in the deeds, then clearly this will be split 50/50. The court can also decide how this will be done. Other assets that may have joint ownership will need to proved to be jointly owned, or not as the case may be, or whether one party has acquired some entitlement to those assets.

Confusion lies in a term called beneficial interest, whereby one party has acquired ownership, and can be difficult to prove. This is gained by a party who has no legal ownership in the property to begin with but who might have contributed to mortgage payments or financially to building modifications. Conversely, one party may have paid all the non-mortgage bills, far exceeding monthly mortgage payments by the other partner, and yet not be entitled to any claim on the home. If there is written evidence that the original homeowner views their cohabitation as co-ownership, perhaps by way of a love letter or informal e-mail, there may well be proof of an acquired beneficial interest, particularly if the original owner unwittingly backs this up by conceding that their ex-partner makes serious financial contributions to the household, by way of recompense. Here, the legal waters are considerably cloudier, and require more legal expertise, and expense, to find a fair resolution. Better to have drawn up a kind-of pre-nuptual cohabitation agreement, at the risk of killing any romance.

See our page on Divorce, here.

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