Protecting wealth – unmarried couples

Welcome to the third and last in a series of three podcasts covering protecting family wealth.

Katy Barber, senior associate in the family law team discusses the importance of protecting your ownership of a property when cohabiting with a partner.

It is often considered that unmarried couples have no financial claims against each other when their relationship breaks down. This is not correct, particularly where a house or children are involved.

Even if a property is owned in the sole name of one party, the other party can accrue a beneficial interest in that property by contributing to mortgage payments, paying utility or other bills or even paying for building work.

If you are seeking to protect your ownership of a property when cohabiting with a partner, most solicitors would advise the couple to enter into a cohabitation agreement. This document regulates your financial relationship so that there could be no discrepancies about any payments made towards the household. It would specifically state amongst other things, that payments made would not give rise to any interest in specific property.

Similarly, if a relationship has broken down where the parties were never married, it should not be assumed that no financial claims can be made. Not only can claims be made on behalf of a former partner but also on behalf of any children of the family that require assistance. Although the Child Maintenance Service imposes obligations on parents to financially maintain their children, there are also claims that can be made on their behalf through the court for capital or top up maintenance where the assets allow.

If a relationship has broken down where the parties are unmarried, it would be prudent to enter into a separation agreement to document any financial settlement that has been agreed.

It is always preferable to obtain specialist legal advice in these situations so that assets are never at risk from unanticipated financial claim form a former spouse.

Contact our family solicitors who can advise you.