Cohabitation Dispute Solicitors
If you and your partner’s relationship breaks down, a cohabitation agreement will normally provide clear instructions as to how your home and assets should be divided. However, if you do not have an agreement drawn up, or one party is disputing it, it’s important to seek legal help straight away.
Our experienced cohabitation dispute solicitors in Bristol and South Gloucestershire can guide you through the process from the start.
How do cohabitation disputes arise?
Cohabitation disputes tend to arise when cohabiting couples reach the end of their relationship, and one party is asked to leave their shared home. The question of ‘who gets to stay and who has to go’ is a common one, not to mention when it comes to one party wanting to sell the property and the other disagreeing.
With more couples choosing to live together outside of marriage, cohabitation disputes are becoming increasingly common, and if there isn’t a cohabitation agreement in place, things can get complicated very quickly. This is why it’s vital to instruct a specialist cohabitation dispute solicitor as soon as a disagreement arises.
How are cohabitation disputes solved?
The starting point with cohabitation dispute resolution, is for a solicitor to look at how the property is owned. When you purchase a property, you should have specified whether it is to be owned in a sole name or in joint names. With joint names, there are two types of joint ownership: tenants in common or joint tenancy.
Tenants in common vs. joint tenancy
If a couple owns as joint tenants, they do not have specified shares in the property, and are each deemed to own the whole property together, so that the whole property will pass to the survivor in the event of the death of either of them. However, in the event of a separation they will be deemed to have agreed to have equal shares in the property, whereas with tenants in common, each party has a share but they might be of different sizes, usually depending on the contributions each makes towards the purchase price. Their shares should be set out on the transfer deed or in a Declaration of Trust.
However, the shares in a property can change over time. For example if one party pays for significant improvements to the property, or if they separate and start making different contributions towards the mortgage or cost of repairs.
If you cannot agree how the property or your assets should be divided, a specialist solicitor can make an application to the court under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA) to decide whether the house should be sold or not, and if so, what the shares should be.
In these cases, it is important to determine what the intention of the parties was at the time the property was purchased, or if that intention changed at a later date. If there is no formal written agreement or Declaration of Trust document, then it is sometimes necessary to look at the evidence, which may include emails or text messages between the parties in order to try and understand what their intentions were at the time.
TOLATA and cohabitation law in general is complex, and it’s vital that you instruct a specialist cohabitation solicitor at the start to ensure everything is covered and that you will be legally protected should the worst happen.