Owner-occupiers, living together and splitting up

8th March 2015 by


Many couples choose to buy property together in joint names. Sometimes, one partner will own the house, but the couple will live together in it as a family. The law on division of property for a married couple acts to protect both parties, but the law is not the same for cohabiting couples.

Healys’ family lawyers in London and Brighton can advise and represent you if you need legal help because you are not married and your relationship has broken down. The law relating to cohabiting couples is not the same as divorce law and some cohabiting people may be left vulnerable and financially disadvantaged if they do not receive expert help.

Sole or joint ownership?

If you are the joint owners of your home and you don’t have children you have equal rights to stay in the home or to benefit from the sale of the property.

Joint owners with children have equal rights to the property, but you can ask a court to transfer the property into the name of the parent who is going to care for the children on a day-to-day basis. The court will decide whether this course of action is in the best interests of the children and it will be enabled for a limited period of time – for example, until the youngest child reaches 18 years of age. Then, equal rights to the house will be restored.

If your partner is the sole owner he or she can ask you to leave and you may have no rights to stay or entitlement to benefit from the sale of the property. However, if you are going to care for children of the relationship, a court can transfer the property into your name for a limited time.

If there are no children and your partner is the sole owner you may be able to claim a ‘beneficial interest’ in the property.

What is beneficial interest in a property?

A court can recognise contributions an unmarried partner has made towards the home and, with sufficient evidence, formally recognise any understanding partners had at the outset that they would share benefit if the property was sold while they were still in a relationship. When one spouse is able to prove to a court that they have ‘beneficial interest’ in a property, they may be able to gain the right to stay living in the home, prevent an ex-partner from staying in the home, or receive proceeds from the sale of the property.

Occupation orders

Courts can also grant an occupation order to enable one former-partner to stay in or return to the home on a short-term basis. Occupation orders can be granted to a sole owner, joint owner, a partner with beneficial interest or the partner of a sole owner. There are different types of occupation orders which can be applied for depending on your position.

Do you need legal advice on cohabitation law and your rights?

If you wish to talk to a solicitor about cohabitation and your rights, please call Healys’ family lawyers in London and Brighton today.

We have many years of experience helping clients to maintain their best interests, and those of their children, when they are not protected by the laws which apply to married couples.

Family law in relation to cohabiting couples is complex, so if you feel your relationship is under threat and you are unsure of your position regarding finances and property, please call the family law team at Healys today.

If you prefer, you can email us your query at family@healys.com