What property rights do unmarried couples have?

As many young couples choose to shun married life, it’s important that cohabiting couples understand their property rights.

Cohabiting couples are the UK’s fastest growing family-type, but the law has not yet caught up with the country’s changing lifestyle trend. Currently, cohabiting couples, even those in very secure long-term relationships, have very different legal rights to married couples.

Married couples both have the right to live in the matrimonial home, whether that is rented or owned accommodation, however the law differs for cohabiting couples.

It’s important that all unmarried couples living together understand their property rights to help them to plan and prepare for the future and to avoid a nasty shock in the event of a separation.

Rented accommodation
When it comes to cohabiting couples that rent property, if your name is not on the tenancy agreement, then you have no legal right to stay in the property if asked to leave. If you are both named on the tenancy agreement, then you have equal rights to stay at the property.

Owned property
If a property is owned jointly by a cohabiting couple, then they both have equal legal rights to the property if they separate.

However, if the property is owned solely by one party then they are the only ones with ownership and the legal right to remain in the property. The other party may still be able to claim ‘beneficial interest’ if they can prove that they have made significant financial contributions towards the property.

If beneficial interest cannot be claimed, then the party will have no legal right to stay in the property.

Forming a cohabitation agreement can be an excellent way for cohabiting couples to gain some financial security. When forming an agreement, the couple will legally agree each party’s rights and responsibilities to help reduce the risk of disagreements in the event of a breakdown of the relationship.

For help creating a cohabitation agreement or resolving a cohabitation dispute, speak to our team of expert family law specialists here at Lund Bennett by calling 0161 927 3118.

Family Law Reforms Fall Due to Upcoming General Election

Due to the imminent General Election, two key pieces of family legislation will now definitely not progress within the current Parliament, which is expected to dissolve on Wednesday. The Domestic Abuse Bill, along with the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill are both at a stand-still with their future uncertain.

The Domestic Abuse Bill has been hailed by domestic violence awareness groups for its proposals to prevent victims of being cross-examined by alleged abusers when giving evidence in the family courts. Today’s confirmation that the election will prevent any chance of the bill achieving Royal Assent has been met with disappointment.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill includes proposals for significant reform of the law surrounding divorce within the UK. This includes, including provisions for ‘no-fault’ divorce which would allow couples to divorce without apportioning blame for the breakdown of the marriage to one party. It would also materially change the manner that spousal maintenance is paid.

Even if the bills are brought back onto the agenda in the future, there will at the very least be substantial delay before they reappear before the relevant committee. It is not known at this stage which party, or indeed parties in the case of a coalition, will be in Government following the election or where the bills will sit within their legislative agenda.

As reported in the Law Gazette, the Domestic Violence and Abuse bill was being considered by a public bill committee, which was due to report to the House of Commons by 21 November. However, Parliament’s website states that ‘due to the imminent dissolution of this parliament and the forthcoming general election, the bill will not progress any further and the public bill committee will no longer meet’.

Advice for easing the stress of a separation for children

Tension and emotions can run high during a separation, so it’s important to take steps to reduce stress for any children involved.
It’s normal for children to feel upset, angry and anxious if their parents are separating or getting a divroce. It can feel like their whole world is being turned upside down, so it’s important to do everything you can to make the transition less painful and confusing.

You can help your child to cope with the upheaval of a separation using the following advice.

Avoid the blame game
No matter what the circumstances of the separation, it is important to avoid playing the blame game in front of your child. Keep hurtful or distressing details about the reasons behind your separation private from your child to prevent them feeling torn or stressed about their relationship with either parent.

Minimise conflict
Try to keep all communications civil and polite in front of the children. Avoid talking about legal proceedings or conflict within earshot of your child to minimise confusion, stress and worry.

Minimise disruption
At a time that is filled with turbulence, it’s important to retain as much consistency and routine in your child’s life as possible. Maintaining routine will help to comfort them and keep them feeling safe and secure.

Keep them in the loop
As soon as decisions have been finalised about living arrangements, discuss them openly with your child. Chances are they will be worrying about what is going to happen next, so keeping them in the loop and talking honestly with them as much as possible can help to reassure them.

Make time for your child and tell them you love them
Sometimes the best thing you can do for your child is to be there for them, holding them and reassuring them that you love them. Life can be hectic, emotional and stressful during a separation, but don’t forget to take time out for 1-on-1 quality time with your child. Go out, do something fun and laugh together, you will find that it makes you both feel better.

Listen to them and acknowledge their feelings
Whilst communicating clearly with your child is very important, so is listening. Let your child express their worries, feelings and emotions to you, whether that’s using their words or through their behaviour. Acknowledge that this is a hard time for them and legitimise their feelings. Let them know that it is ok to feel sad or angry now and that things will get better.

For help or advice with separation law or children law, get in touch with our team of specialist family law solicitors here at Lund Bennett by calling us on 0161 927 3118.

Contact Centres: Not the only answer

The Law Gazette reported yesterday that since the cuts to family legal aid, more separated parents are self-referring themselves to contact centres without instructing solicitors.

Statistics from the National Association of Child Contact Centres show that self-referrals from parents have risen sharply from 3.7% in 2009/10 to 35.8% in 2018/19. In contrast, solicitor referrals drastically fell within the same period, from 67.8% to 21.9%.

In 2012, the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012 significantly reduced the availability of legal aid within private family proceedings. Those who are eligible must demonstrate evidence that they are both on a low income and are also victims of domestic violence. Funding for parents who are involved with public law care proceedings is still widely available.

Those who don’t fit into the above categories must fund the costs of legal representation for private children matters themselves. This is leading to parents who are unable to afford the costs of legal representation self-referring to contact centres in a bid to decrease the amount of stress and anxiety.

However, the downside to this is that parents do not have the benefit of advice as to the role of contact centres or a management of their expectations of the service available. We would always recommend that for disputes between parents, a contact centre alone is no substitute for clear and independent legal advice from a family solicitor.

If you require legal advice or support, give our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett a call on 0161 924 0079.

Christmas Arrangements for Children

It may seem early to be thinking about Christmas, but over the past few weeks the weather has well and truly changed, and winter is in the air. Now is the time that separated parents are starting to sort out arrangements who and where their children will spend time with over the Christmas period.

It’s not easy to undertake this. Christmas at the best of times is an emotional time of the year and there is a lot of pressure on parents to give their children a magical and memorable time. Splitting the 12 days of Christmas amongst more than one family can be challenging and often brings up feelings of resentment and nostalgia for times past. Balancing these two aspects is no simple task.

For the majority of families, parents are able to navigate this tricky time without the need for legal representation. Others however, for a number of reasons, need some additional help and guidance to formalise arrangements appropriate and fair to the individual circumstances. Court proceedings should always be the last resort but if these are initiated our advice is that legal representation should always be sought if possible.

If you have a family law query, then please contact our team at Lund Bennett Law LLP on 0161 924 0079.

What is mediation?

When a dispute cannot be resolved, mediation can be used to help all parties involved to communicate effectively and reach an agreement.
Mediation is a process whereby a professional third-party mediator sits down with all parties involved in a dispute and helps them to discuss issues constructively to reach an agreement amicably without involving the courts.

Most of the time neither party really wants the dispute to go to court, as it can be a costly and time-consuming process.
Instead, mediation can be used to successfully resolve most non-criminal disputes, including those between family members, neighbours, business partners, landlords and tenants.

Mediation is most commonly used to resolve conflict that arises after a divorce or the dissolving of a civil partnership. Mediation is very useful for helping couples going through a separation to come to an agreement about living arrangements for children, child maintenance, and other financial issues.

Benefits of mediation
Better control over outcome – When a dispute goes to litigation, the courts make the final decision on the outcome. Mediation allows you the opportunity to work together to come to your own decisions.

Confidential – Going to court can potentially become a very public process. Mediation goes on behind closed doors and is entirely confidential.

Informal – Taking a dispute to court is a lengthy, formal and intimidating process. Mediation sessions are informal and usually take place in a neutral venue of your choice.

Cheaper – Mediation is generally a much faster and cheaper process than litigation. Whilst mediation will usually cost just one fixed price, the price of taking a dispute to court can be very unpredictable and easily run into the thousands of pounds.

Less damaging to relationships – Going to court can be a stressful process fraught with conflict which can ruin relationships. Mediation focuses on helping parties to communicate calmly and effectively to repair and sometimes even rebuild relationships to reach an amicable agreement.

To find out more about the mediation services provided by our team of family law specialists here at Lund Bennett, give us a call on 0161 927 3118.

Who decides where a child lives after their parents separate?

Any separation can be difficult, but one that involves children can be particularly challenging and emotional.

The biggest decision that couples with children will need to make if they separate, is the children’s living arrangements.

Where possible, it is always easiest and less stressful for everyone involved if the family can come to an amiable agreement together.

However, this is not always possible. In instances where parents do not agree on where a child should live, they may need to seek help from one or more of the following:
•A solicitor specialising in family law.
•Mediation.
•The Family Court.

No matter which route you take to help decide the best living arrangements for your children, the welfare of the children is always considered first and foremost.

Family law solicitor
A family law solicitor will be able to advise you on all avenues open to you and provide you with sound legal advice and guidance.

Mediation
Mediation is a process guided by a trained, impartial, third-party that allows the two parties to have a constructive discussion and hopefully negotiate an outcome that all parties are happy with.

The Family Court
If an agreement still cannot be reached, then it may be necessary to apply to the Family Court for one or more orders to be made. A child arrangement order will decide who the child will live with, who they will spend time with, and when. In some cases, it may also be relevant for the court to issue a specific issue order or a prohibited steps order.

Lund Bennett are family law specialists based in Altrincham and Manchester. For legal help and guidance regarding disputes about child living arrangements, mediation services, or help applying for a court order, get in touch with our team of specialist solicitors by calling us on 0161 927 3118.

No Fault Divorce and Domestic abuse proposals may be revived in the Queen’s Speech

Two key bills which have a major impact on family law face an uncertain future given the recent prorogation of Parliament. Both the Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill and the Domestic Abuse Bill have been halted due to lack of parliamentary time.

As reported in the Law Gazette, both of the bills were a result of extensive cross-party work and follow years of campaigning for reform. As there was no cross-over motion pre-prorogation then if the Government brings the bills back the process may have to start from scratch in the next parliament.

A glimmer of hope comes from the Leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg who has stated that the Domestic Abuse Bill is “likely” to be a feature in the new parliamentary session.

He heavily hinted that it will feature with in the Queen’s Speech, saying: “I can’t tell you what is precisely going to be in the Queen’s Speech but I think I can give a steer that it’d be a great surprise to all of us if this Bill was not revived very quickly.”

Parliament has been suspended by the Government and is due to return on 14 October 2019.

Unmarried cohabiting couples are the UK’s fastest growing family type

The typical family in the UK is changing, as more opposite-sex couples than ever are choosing to live together without getting married.

According to research by the ONS, whilst married couple families remain the commonest family type, between 2008 and 2018 the number of cohabiting couples grew faster than the number of married couples.

The figures show that the overall number of families in the UK has increased by 8% over the last decade, with the number of cohabiting couples increasing by 25.8%.

Meanwhile, since same-sex marriage was introduced in 2014, the number of same-sex couples getting married has steadily increased each year. Same-sex couple families have grown by 50% since 2015 and the number of same-sex married couples has doubled since 2017.

The data also shows that there are now more people than ever before living alone in the UK.

Legal protection for cohabiting couples

With 3.3 million couples now cohabiting in the UK, there have been calls to review cohabitation laws to keep up with the nation’s changing lifestyle trends.
Currently, cohabiting couples do not have the same legal protection as married couples. With over half of cohabiting couples owning property and financial assets together, it’s important that they seek legal protection.

One way that those cohabiting can gain some financial protection and security is by creating a cohabitation agreement.

A cohabitation agreement can be used to agree details about financial commitments and assets both whilst living together and in the event of a separation. The kinds of things that may be included in an agreement include who owns what assets, who is to pay what towards bills and living expenses, and in the event of a separation, where children would live, how property would be divided, and how debt would be split.

For help and advice with a cohabitation dispute or creating a cohabitation agreement, get in touch with our team of specialists here at Lund Bennett Law by giving us a call on 0161 927 3118.

Back to school creates its own issues for separated parents

Now the summer holidays are ending, and the oh-so-frightening GCSE results day has passed, separated parents are having to carefully consider how to deal with contact arrangements for term-time.
With the new school term approaching, parents are having to negotiate the drop-offs and pick-ups whilst also considering other matters such as uniforms and various school equipment. These discussions can quickly become topics of heated discussion.

Navigating such arrangements with an ex-partner can be tricky and the resulting disagreements can have a negative impact on the children. The key to such arrangements is effective communication. Sometimes this requires taking a step back from the situation and have a professional help both parties to evaluate the important issues.

Except in limited circumstances, such as where there are issues of domestic violence, both parties are required to attend mediation prior to starting court proceedings. This is to try to encourage parents to resolve their disputes without needing to incur the associated emotional and financial costs.

A recent review has revealed that the levels of private children applications starting in the family courts is at an all-time high. Having an effective process in place with clear advice from a family law solicitor can make all the difference and potentially avoid the need for parents going to court.

If you have a family law query, then please contact our team at Lund Bennett Law LLP on 0161 924 0079.