Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a “common-law marriage”. When two people live together as man and wife, or as civil partners, but have not gone through a legal marriage or civil partnership ceremony, they are not able to rely on the law relating to marital financial settlements when they separate. This applies even if the couple have gone through a religious ceremony but have not had a legal marriage before an authorised Registrar. Where parties are not legally married, strict laws of property apply and neither partner will be able to claim any maintenance from the other for themselves, although they can obtain payments for any children they have to look after. There can be disputes about shares in a company or the assets of a partnership. There can also be disputes about residence of the children (which is dealt with elsewhere) or even ownership of pets. However, the main financial argument is usually about the family home or other investment properties. These arguments are decided by reference to the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.
There are two areas which cause real difficulty: Where the property has been purchased in the joint names of the couple, but there is no agreement as to the shares each person is entitled to have; or Where the property has been purchased in the name of one of the couple, but the other one says that he or she is entitled to a share because the couple had agreed that they would share the ownership of the property and the person claiming a share has in some way relied on that promise or agreement by doing something against their own interest - such as providing a sum of money towards the purchase or paying the mortgage. These problems also arise in other relationships, such as between parents and children or brothers and sisters. The law relating to these disputes is the same as that relating to co-habitation disputes. Lovell Chohan Solicitors have wide experience in dealing with all aspects of a co-habitation or other family dispute and will try to reach a settlement between the parties on a sensible and pragmatic basis. If a claim has to be issued then Lovell Chohan Solicitors have access to highly experienced barristers who can assist. These claims can be expensive, but at all times and in appropriate cases Public Funding assistance may be avaiable subject to the statutory charge.