Cohabitees’ breaking up survival guide
Couples that have been living together don’t own everything equally in the way married couples or those in a civil partnership do.
Even when you have lived together for a very long time or have always shared your money you are not automatically entitled to 50% of everything you and your ex partner own. Also if you have a debt in your name, you and you alone are responsible to the lender for paying it off; it does not matter who spent the money in the first place.
The recent Court of Appeal case of Southwell v Blackburn shows how even when the property is purchased in one person’s sole name the dispute between the parties can be very costly, both emotionally and financially.
Most couples who have shared a home, have bought things together, and often also have shared savings and debts. These need to be divided and by taking early legal advice you can assess what is going to be a fair way of dividing your assets and debts and hopefully avoid high legal costs fighting the matter through the courts. Mr Southwell has said that his legal costs were £100,000.
When a relationship breaks down it is particularly hard where there are children. You will need to agree where the children will live, ensure that the children have plenty of time with both their parents and how you will continue to pay for all the things they need.
Breaking up is always painful, and many people feel tempted to retaliate for the hurt they feel by destroying things, changing the locks, packing up their ex-partner’s stuff and leaving it outside or running away with the children.
These may give a short-term feeling of satisfaction but in the long run they are unhelpful and often unlawful. They will also make relations between you deteriorate further, exactly when you need to start finding ways to agree things.
Equally many people just want to sort everything out immediately but things often go more smoothly if you take a little bit of time and think about the outcome you would like and where you may be willing to compromise.
If you and your ex partner are trying to resolve matters over email do remember that email is a permanent record of what you say and can be printed off and shown to others, such as a judge. So don’t send anything you would be embarrassed by later. If you are meeting in person to discuss matters write down the main points you want to make. You could also draw up a list of what is agreed and what still needs to be decided and that will hopefully ensure that the meeting stays focused on the issues and does not become a war zone.
If it is still impossible to agree matters between you and your former partner there are things a court can help with but this is stressful, expensive and slow so should only be considered as a last resort. However, if emotions make it impossible for you to come to an agreement, we can negotiate the agreement on your behalf. This may also give you the added security of knowing that you have an expert on your side.
Once an agreement has been reached we can ensure that there is a clear record of the settlement and that all necessary steps are taken to implement the agreed action, for example if a property needs to be transferred from one to the other.
The family team at Hine are members of Resolution and we believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to resolving family disputes.