The law relating to unmarried couples on a relationship breakdown (TLATA)

Cohabiting couple families are the second largest family type in the UK. The Office for National Statistics has revealed that the number of cohabiting couple families continue to grow faster than married couples. Despite the increase, the law, does not provide cohabiting couples with the same rights as married couples who are divorcing would. This can often have devasting consequences for couples who are unaware of the law, especially when children are involved.

The family home

The family home is likely to be the biggest asset that you and your partner have built up whilst living together. When the property is held in joint names, the law assumes it is held 50:50 unless there is an agreement stating otherwise. Where there is no agreement, the court will need to determine whether the shares are held equally.

When the property is held solely in your partner’s name, the law is somewhat complex. You must establish that you have a beneficial interest in that property. You can do this by showing you made a direct contribution to the purchase price, or payments towards the mortgage repayment premiums, or that there was a common intention to share the property. The latter is the most difficult to prove.  Contributions towards the household’s expenses are usually not considered a sufficient financial contribution.

If an agreement cannot be reached via mediation or negotiation then an application to the court is your only alternative. A claim can be made under The Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TLATA).

The children

You can commence proceedings under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 and ask the court to make the following Orders for the benefit of the children:

  • Periodical payments
  • Secured periodical payments
  • Lump sum orders
  • Settlement of property
  • Transfer of property

In some cases, it may be necessary to consolidate the Schedule 1 and TLATA proceedings in the family court.

If you would like to speak to one of our specialist family solicitors about your cohabitee dispute or if you have any questions, please call us on 020 7467 3980 or contact us here.