Inspiring separating couples to make their own informed decisions

Archive for January, 2013

Unmarried Couples & Unfair Property Laws

Marriage Day

Breaking up is never easy…but there is a better way…

 

There has been much debate about the unfair property laws that affect separating unmarried couples in the UK.

Not withstanding a call for reform from lead bodies and Judges that work within the family law sector, the Government has resisted implementing proposed changes that would make the system fairer for separating cohabitees.

Cohabitation or Living Together Agreements are becoming increasingly popular in the UK as a result of the injustice  that the current laws are causing. 

It is a well known fact that marriage rates are falling and people are choosing to live together instead. However, as the law stands now, there is very little legal protection for cohabitees who suffer a relationship breakup and need to resolve disputes that may have arisen in respect of property and/or children.

You will often hear the term “common law husband and wife.” It is a mistake to think that if you live with someone for a period of time you acquire the same rights as a husband and wife. This is not true. Cohabitees cannot rely on the Family Court to determine an appropriate financial settlement for them as Divorcees can. The law relating to unmarried couples and property rights is very complex and can lead to harsh outcomes because the Judge’s hands are tied by the existing laws. Please read related article below.

For this reason, more people are turning to Cohabitation Agreements to record the financial arrangements that are to apply in respect of their cohabitation and what should happen in the event that the relationship fails. Living Together Agreements are contracts that can include provisions dealing with income, property, children, wills and legacies, ownership of chattels and many other matters that may be relevant to you and your partner.

It is in your best interest to take legal advice on having a Cohabitation Agreement drawn up.  With out a doubt, this will save you and your partner a lot of heart ache and costs of litigation in the event that your relationship comes to an end.

Also, if you are buying a property together than consider having a declaration of trust drawn up or making it clear on your purchase documents how you both intend to hold the beneficial interest (capital) in the property. The Land Registry has devised a new Form JO to make it simpler for cohabiting couples to declare their intentions. For more information, see the Land Registry’s public guide to joint ownership here.

If you are contemplating separation from your partner or you have already separated, I would suggest that you consider in the first instance, the services of a family mediator to reach your own informed agreements about property, finance and/or children.

Family Mediation (in suitable cases) will prove to be a less  stressful option to resolving your disputes and will limit both the financial and emotional costs of your break up.

Separating Couples:How Will the Welfare Reforms Affect You?

Bedroom

Bedroom Tax (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn_be_back_on_Jan_20th)

On 12th March 2012 the Welfare Reform Act was given the green light – this will be the biggest changes in the UK Welfare system over the past 60 years.

The key  aim is to make the benefits and tax credit system fairer and simpler to understand and administer. For a more detailed account  of the main elements of the changes,please visit the DWP website.

The changes that may affect you are:

  •  The introduction of Universal Credit, which will give you a single  payment direct into your bank account with a proposed cap of £500.00 per week for a couple or single parent with dependant child/ren and £350.00  per week cap for a single adult person. This will replace :
    • Income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance
    • Income-related Employment and Support Allowance
    • Income Support
    • Child Tax Credit
    • Working Tax Credit
    • Housing Benefit
  • Bedroom tax. The reforms will cut the amount of  Housing Benefit that you can get if you are deemed to have a spare bedroom in your rented home. Separated parents who share the care of their children and who have an extra bedroom to accommodate this  will be unfairly penalised under the new rules as there must be a designated ‘main carer’ for the child/ren who receives the extra benefit. The  cut proposed is 14%  if you are deemed to have one spare bedroom and 25%  if you are deemed to have two or more spare bedrooms. In cash terms this can be on average, a loss of £15.00 per week. For more information, please visit the National Housing Federation website.

If you are contemplating separation be ready for the  impact of the new Welfare Reforms and make sure that consideration is given to how they may affect you and your ex partner and more importantly any children of the family.

Please remember, when considering how to deal with your separation/divorce, it will serve you, your ex partner and any children of the family to give consideration to out of Court settlements via Dispute Resolution options like, family mediation.  Such options are not suitable in every case and in some circumstances, the matter should be placed before for the Court for significant issues to be determined by a Judge/Magistrates.

Research studies have shown that family disputes resolved via mediation (where the case is assessed suitable for mediation) are less acrimonious than those that are settled through the Court system. Further, decisions made by you and your ex partner by agreement are more likely to be kept as opposed to Court imposed Orders.

New website – Law in 27 EU Countries – Helping European Separating Couples

   

European flag outside the Commission

European flag outside the Commission (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Notaries of Europe with the support of the European Commission have launched a very helpful website for separating international/European couples to help them gain access to comprehensive and reliable information on the complex area of law relating to their separation in 21 different languages.

This is a very useful tool to help people to make use of their rights as European Citizens. The website clarifies the different applicable laws on matrimonial property regimes and property consequences of registered partnerships affecting the separating couple in each European Country. Please see the press release on the Notaries for Europe website here for more information.

If you are contemplating separation or Divorce and either or both of you are European Citizens, this website will help you by answering  the following questions for the 27 EU Countries:

• 1 Which law applies?
• 2 Is there a statutory matrimonial property regime and if so, what does it provide?
• 3 How can the spouses arrange their property regime?
• 4 Can or must the matrimonial property regime be registered?
• 5 What are the consequences of Divorce/separation?
• 6 What are the consequences of death?
• 7 Does your national law provide a special matrimonial property regime for multi-national couples?
• 8 What does the law provide for the property of registered and non-registered partners?
• 9 Which is the competent authority to turn to in cases of disputes and other legal issues?

If you are considering separation or Divorce,  please in the first instance, give consideration to the out of Court options to resolving any disagreements that you may have either family mediation or in more complex cases, consideration should be given to the collaborative approach, which allows legal advice during meetings.

New Year Blues – Divorce Day

The first working day back in the New Year is classed as ‘Divorce Day’ by most lawyers. Usually after the festive season those couples who have kept it together for the sake of their children or simply to avoid the stress of a breakup during what should be happy times, make the decision that something needs to be done to end the façade and on going struggles/misery by taking formal steps to end their relationship.

It takes a lot of courage and a strong person to take this bold step but with the right advice and support unhappy couples can make the right decisions about where their relationship is going. Unhappy relationships don’t have to end in Divorce/separation – sometimes all that is needed is  time apart to allow you and your partner the time and space to reflect upon what the real issues are in your relationship. Can they be resolved with professional help and support? Visit the useful links  page for information an agencies such as Relate that may be able to help.

If there is no third-party involvement by either party and no serious issues about the safety or welfare of either party or any child/ren of the family then in some cases the answer maybe to have counselling, therapy, coaching through professionals trained to help couples in such circumstances – to help you get back on track to re-kindle your love and admiration for each other. There are no quick fixes and both you and your partner would have to be committed to this process to have a good chance of succeeding in a reconciliation.

However, sadly in a lot cases you and your partner will have reached the point of no return and therefore serious consideration will need to be given to formalising your separation. The Government is encouraging separating couples to consider family mediation as their first port of call to avoid protracted Court proceedings and the added stress and costs of the traditional Court based approach. Read the related articles below.

Where a case is suitable for mediation, I would strongly recommend that you and your partner at least keep an open mind about the out of Court option and give family mediation a fair go. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.

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