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What happens to joint property when cohabitation ends?
Separation is never easy, but if you and your former partner own property together, the situation can be even more complicated. If you have been living with a partner, but you are not married, the legal term is ‘cohabitation’.
When cohabitees separate, they are not afforded the same protections in law as married couples who are getting divorced. This can be difficult, as, for many cohabiting couples, there is little difference in practical terms.
In this article, Sarah Jones, Partner and Head of the Family Team at Farnfields Solicitors LLP looks at what happens to property when you separate from a partner you have been cohabiting with.
Do I need to move out of our home?
If you own your home and you are named on the title deeds, you have the right to stay in the property. However, if you are both named on the title deeds, you will need to decide between you who will remain in your home, or if you wish to sell it.
What happens if we want to sell the property?
If you and your partner decide to sell your home, the process is reasonably straightforward. You can sell the property and divide the profits after paying off any existing mortgage.
What if one partner wishes to stay in the property?
If one partner wants to stay in the property, they may be able to buy their partner’s share in the property. You should seek advice from an experienced mortgage broker if you wish to do this as lenders will require evidence that you can afford the mortgage on your own. You will then need the assistance of a solicitor to transfer ownership.
What happens if we cannot agree on what is to happen to our home?
If you and your former partner are unable to come to an agreement about what is to happen to your home, you may wish to enter mediation to help you come to an agreement. If mediation is unsuccessful, you can ask the courts to decide what will happen to the property. Typically, the court will divide the property’s value between the two of you based on the shares you are entitled to.
What if we have children?
If you have children under the age of 18, it is possible to ask the court to delay selling the property until your youngest child turns 18.
If I move out, do I still need to pay the mortgage?
If both parties are named on the mortgage, you are both responsible for continuing to make mortgage payments – even when one party moves out.
What is a cohabitation agreement?
For cohabiting couples, a cohabitation agreement can be used to set out and record a number of things. They can be used to determine how your finances will be managed while you and your partner are together, as well as establishing how assets will be shared should you separate. Cohabitation agreements are not legally binding, but the courts will generally follow the agreement set out in a formal document provided it is appropriately drafted. We can give advice on a cohabitation agreement at the outset of or during such a relationship as to the best way to protect your assets and income if you subsequently separate.
We can also prepare a separation agreement for you if you would like to formally record the arrangements you have chosen to make at the end of your relationship. Like a cohabitation agreement, it is not automatically legally binding but a separation agreement will generally be upheld by a court if it is properly drafted.
If you would like to find out more or need advice, please get in touch with our Family Team on (01747) 825432 or via firstname.lastname@example.org