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If you have separated after living together in a long-term relationship but never married, you might be in a dispute about who gets what – especially with high value assets such as property.
If you made a cohabitation agreement (also known as a living together agreement), it should set out how you’ll share the value of the property. However, like many couples you may not have had a cohabitation agreement, and if you can’t agree on your respective shares of the property, your dispute may have to be settled in court.
In England and Wales, the title to property is held both legally and beneficially. The legal name registered to the title may not conclusively prove who is beneficially entitled to the property.
You can acquire a beneficial interest to the property in several ways. These include an express declaration of trust, a resulting trust, constructive trust or by proprietary estoppel (a way of creating interest without formal agreements).
If after your break-up you can’t agree your respective shares in a property you own together, you’ll need to apply to the court under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. This Act allows the court to determine your interest in the property and decide what should happen to the property, for example whether it should be sold.
The law concerning property co-ownership, and how to deal with a property held under a trust of land, is very complicated. It needs specialist legal advice and support at an early stage. We will explain what will happen in court, what will influence the decision and how we can help you set out your position in the most effective way.
In this type of dispute having convincing evidence is critical, and your solicitor may have to do a lot of investigating. We are experienced in handling cohabitation disputes, so we know the depth of detail required. For example, we can investigate the title to the property, to see how the legal ownership is held and whether there is an express declaration of trust in place. We will also look to prove exactly how you and your partner agreed to share the property, taking into account how much you each contributed financially, the conversations you had about ownership and any other significant contributions. Often cases are decided based on the credibility of the evidence each party provides. We will work with you to ensure the strength and credibility of your evidence gives you a better chance of success.
Putting together the strongest possible case to secure your share may be time-consuming. We will be realistic about costs and help you make an informed decision about going ahead. If you and your ex-partner can agree to try alternative dispute resolution, that could well be the most practical and cost-effective route. We can advise you on this process and guide you through it. If litigation is necessary, however, you can rely on us to provide good value and give you helpful advice on funding the cost of going to court.