Unmarried Couples’ Finances

The principle of a common law spouse is not recognised in English law and whilst those that have lived together for some time often believe that should their relationship breakdown, they will have legal rights similar to those of married couples, this is simply not the case.

If there are no children, on separation the parties do not have a claim to capital or maintenance, jointly owned assets are divided in accordance with their respective legal ownership. There are some cases (and these tend to focus exclusively on the family home), whereby it is argued that one party to the relationship has a greater interest in the property than the legal ownership records or that they have a financial interest in the property owned in the sole name of the other. Such arguments tend to arise whereby one party has contributed to the initial purchase of the property, undertaken significant works that improve the property’s value or acted to their detriment on the understanding that they would have an interest in the property.

Those pursuing such claims usually rely on the provisions of the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA). These claims are often complex and technical.

If there are children of the family then it may be possible to bring a claim on behalf of a child for financial provision in addition to any assessment made by the Child Maintenance Service for child maintenance. These claims are limited to the provisions of Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 and permit the court to make the following orders:

  • Child maintenance – if there has been a “maximum” maintenance assessment in addition to the
  • Capital lump sum
  • Transfer or settlement of a house to provide a home for the child whilst they are a minor, with a provision usually that the house is then transferred back to the parent who provided it.

Often a parent bringing a claim for financial provision for a child will combine that claim with a TOLATA application.

As specialist solicitors with significant experience dealing with such issues we are able to provide you with the best advice to ensure that you can make an informed decision about how you want to bring about a solution to the issue of financial provision for you and your children.

Read our articles on Unmarried Couples and relationship breakdown.

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UK Divorce and Family Leading Law Firm 2023Barr Ellison Law has a small but highly esteemed family, divorce and wealth protection practice, led by Sarah Martin. Her work focuses predominantly on complex financial divorces, both UK and cross-border, and is highly regarded for her experience in private children matters. Associate Karen Anker has vast experience in financial matters, arrangements for children and relocation disputes. She also advises on also wealth protection, including pre- and post-marital agreements and cohabitation agreements. The team is praised for ‘the impeccable quality of their work and advice’.
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‘Sarah Martin and Karen Anker provide a top class service at this firm. The quality of their work and advice is, in my view, impeccable.’

‘Sarah Martin really cares about her clients and she does in fact go the extra mile. She has complex work which she handles with real skill and diligence.’

‘A boutique team. Focus on holistic support of client when going through the process of litigation.’

‘Sarah Martin: thinking of every possible avenue a case could travel. Gives unrivalled level of support to clients. Clients always feel they have a team 100% on their side.’

‘A very experienced family team in Sarah Martin and Karen Anker. Both very well respected within the Cambridge family law community and beyond.’

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‘Sarah Martin is a knowledgeable, approachable and empathetic solicitor who is adept at calming any given situation. A versatile practitioner with a gentle manner that hides a steely focus to get the best for her clients.’

‘A very experienced family team in Sarah Martin and Karen Anker. Both very well respected within the Cambridge family law community and beyond.’