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Cohabitation and property disputes

The breakdown of a relationship often has the same implications on finances and child arrangements as a marriage ending. However, when the couple are not married, the law can be more difficult to navigate.

Many cohabiting couples make the mistake of assuming that, because they have lived together for a long time, they have the same claims to property and assets as married couples do. Currently, despite many appeals for change, “Common Law” marriage is not recognised by law. Consequently, if your relationship breaks down you could find yourself at a severe disadvantage financially.

If you want to live with your partner without marrying, it is important to have a clear, formal agreement to set out both of your interests. This will protect your assets in the event of a future dispute if the relationship breaks down. 

Working with us, you can have absolute confidence that you will have an expert team dedicated to safeguarding your interests:

  • Our first meeting is free, no matter how long it takes, to make sure we completely understand your circumstances and what you want to achieve.
  • Everything we talk about throughout the time we spend working together will always be totally confidential.
  • Using our knowledge and experience we guarantee that we will be able to give you a range of options, with a detailed overview of the likely process, outcomes, timescales and costs
  • Our lawyers and legal teams are top ranked by the legal directories, so you can be sure that you are being guided by specialist experts in all areas of family law and cohabitation disputes.
  • Our partners and lawyers have decades of experience, an excellent reputation and over the years have built up strong relationships with other lawyers, Judges and professional bodies.
  • We have teams in Beverley, Lincoln and York, and work with clients across East and North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the East Midlands.
  • Our family lawyers are also supported by colleagues from other teams who can provide complementary advice on topics such as wills, trusts, inheritance tax and property. You can rest assured that we will have your best interests at heart, from start to finish, in a way that gives you comfort and control over the issues to be resolved.

The types of cohabitation and property issues we can help you with

We have significant experience in a wide range of situations that unmarried couples face, from declarations of trust and separation agreements, to Living Together agreements and children issues. We are one of the few family law firms specialising in this area and with experience of dealing with the civil proceedings that often arise. We regularly advise individuals and couple on:

  • Cohabitation agreements, often known as Living Together agreements, which will protect the interests and assets that each person brings to the relationship.
  • Declarations of trust, which are legally binding documents that record the financial arrangements between join property owners, as well as anyone else with a financial interest in the property.
  • Separation agreements to resolve financial and property issues when a relationship ends, in particular when one person has made significant contributions to the relationship and living arrangements.
  • Children issues, particularly financial claims on behalf of children where partners were not married, commonly known as Schedule One claims.
  • Disputes involving business assets of unmarried couples, where we have specialist knowledge and expertise advising business owners, entrepreneurs and farmers.
  • Property claims of unmarried couples, including those who were engaged.

Recent examples of our work in this area

Examples of our recent work in this are:

  • Advising a cohabitee on how to protect their family wealth where a dynastic family business was involved, working jointly with our multi-specialist Private Client team.
  • Protecting a cohabitee’s rights where there were significantly unequal contributions of wealth and inherited assets in the relationship.
  • Successfully defending a business owner in civil litigation proceedings against to a claim issued by her former partner for a beneficial interest in her property and business; this case involved assets and witness evidence from Ukraine, with issues surrounding the former partner’s breach of fiduciary duties.
  • Negotiating a Separation Agreement for an unmarried couple involving the sale of farm and land.
  • Negotiating a Schedule One financial settlement for a mother on behalf of her children, where she and the father were unmarried and he had substantial assets; the agreement included child maintenance and provision for housing and a car.

How we work

Litigation is expensive, so the more both parties can agree between themselves without having to involve the court process, the better.

The first stage for us is to meet with you, free of charge, to listen and understand the situation you are in.

While some firms limit an initial discussion to 30 minutes, we will speak to you for as long as it takes us to build a complete picture of what the solution might look like.

When we have that clarity, we will outline the process, explaining the likely timescales, key milestones and costs, as well as the team that will support you. The team will always be led by a partner, aided by more junior team members. We know from prior experience that this will give you the right mix of skills, knowledge and value.

Alternative Dispute Resolution and mediation

Litigation is not always the answer. In these types of situations, people are encouraged to try other forms of alternate dispute resolution known as “ADR”, which can include mediation.  

A voluntary and confidential process, mediation provides an open forum to discuss options face-to-face with the benefit of an impartial mediator, and without being legally bound to any statement, unless you choose otherwise. This freedom makes it easier for people to find a solution themselves, rather than it being dictated by a court.

As mediation also encourages you to work together to find solutions together, it will help you communicate effectively with each other in the future; this is particularly beneficially where children are involved. We have qualified mediators in our team who can give you the right support and guidance, as well ensuring complete control of your solution, from start to finish.

Our team

With a team of over 20 lawyers and support staff who specialise in advising people on cohabitation and property issues, you can be sure that we have the resources available to help you:

  • Our teams are top ranked by the legal directories, so you know that you will be guided by specialist experts in all areas of family law.
  • Our partners and lawyers have decades of experience, an excellent reputation, and over the years have built up strong relationships with other lawyers, judges and professional bodies.
  • We have teams in Beverley, Lincoln and York, and work with clients across East and North Yorkshire, Lincolnshire and the East Midlands.
  • Our family lawyers are also supported by colleagues from other teams who can provide complementary advice on wills, trusts, inheritance tax and property. You can rest assured that we will have your best interests at heart from start to finish, and work in a way that gives you comfort and control over the issues to be resolved.

Fees and costs

If you would like us to work with you, you will need to pay some money upfront; this is known as providing a ‘payment on account’. This is typically £500, but could be more if you have an imminent court hearing or other substantial work that needs to be dealt with straight away.

For our fees, we will typically send you a bill every month so that you can keep up to date with how much everything costs. The amount will depends on how much work we have done that month.

In addition to our fees, you may also have to pay extra money for a barrister (if you use one) and court fees. These are known as ‘disbursements’ and will need to be paid in advance.

What do people say about working with us?

Testimonials from the legal directories include:

  • Professional, efficient and the advice provided was excellent.  I felt very comfortable discussing personal matters and the communication with the other party was assertive and very professional.  Despite the challenges of the Coronavirus the service and communication were faultless.
  • Polite and courteous, smart and efficient, kind and caring, and extremely competent – the lawyers gave me a great sense of being in the right place for the job in hand.
  • They have strength in depth and handle the whole spectrum of family law from high-net-worth financial remedy work through to children cases.
  • Client-focused and sensitive to their clients' needs, but also robust.

Recent feedback direct from clients includes:

  • Professional, efficient and the advice provided was excellent.  I felt very comfortable discussing personal matters and the communication with the other party was assertive and very professional.  Despite the challenges of the Coronavirus the service and communication were faultless.

York

Mark Day, Divorce Solicitor York & Head of Family Law at Langleys Solicitors

Mark Day

Partner and Head of Family Law

Office 01904 683 116

Mobile 07901 711 163

Langleys will only use the information you provide to contact you in relation to your enquiry.

Lincoln

Lincoln Divorce & Family Solicitor - Emma Lawler

Emma Lawler

Partner

Office 01522 508 812

Mobile 07703 729 861

Langleys will only use the information you provide to contact you in relation to your enquiry.

York

Theo Hoppen, Divorce Solicitor York, Partner in Family law at Langleys Solicitors

Theo Hoppen

Partner

Office 01904 683 115

Mobile 07923 249 246

Langleys will only use the information you provide to contact you in relation to your enquiry.

Beverley

Claire Ward, Divorce Solicitor Beverley, York, Partner in Family Law at Langleys Solicitors

Claire Ward

Partner

Office 01904 683 113

Mobile 07923 230 716

Langleys will only use the information you provide to contact you in relation to your enquiry.

Legal Directory Feedback

High quality, engaging professionals at all levels, focused on delivering cost efficient outcomes.

Legal 500, 2021

Excellent client care.

Chambers, 2021

A very personal touch given at all times, excellent customer service and a very quick response to any queries.

Legal 500, 2021

Honest advice given in client’s best interests.

Legal 500, 2021

Calls were always returned promptly and the lawyers were all very understanding.

Chambers, 2020