This section deals with property and finances when the parties are unmarried. If you are married go to our property and finances section on our Divorce Section.
If couples that are not married separate, dealing with property issues and other financial matters can be very difficult. The law at present treats unmarried couples differently to married or Civil Partners. The main difference is that the Courts will either refer to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 or the Civil Partnership Act 2004 if the parties are married. If parties are not married the law is different, although there are various ways in which the Courts can assist.
Issues that can arise when separating can include:
- How the jointly owned property is divided
- How property held in one person’s sole name may be subject to a claim by their partner/ex-partner
- How and when maintenance is paid
- How other assets are divided
- How any agreement reached between separating couples can be recorded
The Court has the power to deal with property in the following ways:
If a property is jointly owned and either an agreement cannot be reached about division of the equity or a sale; or one party is reluctant to deal with the property. The Court has the power to Order a sale and/or Order how the proceeds of sale should be paid (Order for Sale)
If one party owns the property but the other party is able to assert some type of interest in the property then again the Court has the power to make a declaration as to that person’s interest in the property. A person may have an interest in the property by an express agreement. A person may also be able to establish an interest in somebody’s property, if they have made certain types of contributions. For example, they may have contributed towards the purchase price deposit or mortgage payments. This is dealt with under the Trusts of Land and Appointments of Trustees Act 1996.
Financial Matters in Respect of Children
Child maintenance is generally dealt with through the Child Support Agency unless an agreement can be reached between the parties by consent.
The Court has the power to make financial provision where there are children in certain circumstances. There is a piece of legislation called The Children Act 1989, Schedule 1 that allows this. For example, a mother needs to house herself and the children and requires a deposit to purchase property similar to that of the father. The father has significant assets, including the property where they lived as a family. This legislation is rarely used although it may be the only remedy available. Sometimes people do not necessarily have an interest in the property or are married.
Being unmarried can affect a settlement in the following ways:
- The Courts are far less flexible in dividing assets up between the parties.
- Maintenance cannot be awarded between the parties if the parties have not been married or in a Civil Partnership.
- The Courts are extremely unlikely to be able to deal with pensions if the parties have not been married or in a Civil Partnership.
- The Courts are unlikely to be able to deal with other properties over and beyond the property in which the parties live.