Further free £500 Mediation Vouchers announced! The Ministry of Justice has already spent just over £3m (plus admin costs) on the £500 max Voucher Scheme to date. They have committed to yet more expenditure on these...
Cohabitation is when couples live together (for whatever length of time) and have not formed a formal marriage, same sex marriage or civil partnership and then separate.
There is no such thing as ‘common law’ marriage. This is a myth and a dangerous one. You do not have any responsibilities to each other save as they relate to any children. Therefore, there is no formal process to go through but there will still be things to sort out. You will need to consider the following:
- The property where you live (or other properties you own together).
- Any items in the property.
- Any pets.
- Any debts.
- Any joint savings or accounts (these are usually shared equally).
For cohabitants the simple position is that if you own it, you keep it but there are claims that can be made by the non-owner. This is an area of law called Trust of Land (and Appointment of Trustees) Act. It is devilishly complicated but I can help you work it out.
No claims can be made for:
- Maintenance to support you or for you to support your ex-partner
- Assets in the sole name of the other (but check with me to be sure)
You may also need to consider further discussions with me if:
- You took out a loan for your ex-partner which they can’t or won’t pay
- You don’t own the family home but feel you want to make a financial claim
- You and your ex have a joint business that you can’t agree how to divide it or run it
- You and your ex-partner jointly own your home and can’t agree how to divide it
- You and your ex-partner drew up a ‘living together agreement’, ‘Deed of Trust’ or Declaration of Trust which set out how you would split your finances, but now they or you have decided not to be held to it.
It’s a good idea to obtain a Separation Deed which formalises the settlement you reached for the avoidance of doubt later on. I can help you draft this document so there is clarity and a way forward for you.
Provision for the child(ren)
If there are children there are claims that can be made for child maintenance (via the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) or under Schedule 1 of the Children Act if the CMS does not apply). It’s complicated but claims by the primary carer of the child(ren) can be made for provision for housing and other items for their use until the children are 18 (Schedule 1 Children Act) from the other parent.
These claims include School fees and other expenses for the child(ren).
How will you sort things out?
I am not a big fan of writing letters. Sometimes it’s helpful, especially if there are later court proceedings. But having me write letters is very time consuming - which means expensive - and often doesn’t resolve things. Are you willing to do things in a more appropriate and cost-effective way?
How will you choose to sort things out?
Now it’s time to consider how the ways of sorting things out might suit you better. I will have in-depth discussions with you to see which of these processes OR a mix of these processes would suit you best.
One Solicitor: One Couple - this is where I help you both by giving you joint best interests’ advice. See the page about the solicitor neutral role for more details.
Hybrid Mediation - where solicitors are already involved or you are in mediation already. The solicitors are with you in mediation and this can be helpful as it cuts down on time and complications arising from lack of contemporaneous advice.
Child Inclusive Mediation - a specially trained mediator talks and listens to your child(ren). Usually, but not always, the Child Inclusive Mediator will be separate to your mediator or hybrid mediator. They report back to you what the child (if the child consents) thinks.
Collaborative practice - where I and your ex’s especially trained lawyer work together to help you both sort things out; we will never work against each other or try to ‘win’; we will not be tactical. We use our legal advice openly (known as waiving legal privilege). That way you know what each other’s cases are and can work out a way forward. We lawyers are contractually obliged not to go to court with you; this is a positive as it binds everyone to making it work.
Round table meetings - your lawyer and your ex’s lawyers meet ‘around the table’ or online together. We will want to sign a principled meeting agreement to make sure you can get the best out of it (rather than posturing and positioning).
Arbitration - you and your ex simply can’t make a decision on one or all issues. Then you need a decision maker. Sadly, most people at the moment would issue an application at court to ask a Judge to adjudicate. The court is not a good option. Instead use Arbitration to ask the Arbitrator to make the decision for you.
Arb-Med (Arbitration-Mediation) - this is a combination of Arbitration and Mediation. The order is important. First, you’d instruct an Arbitrator (see Arbitration) who would direct that you attend mediation. Most people sort everything out in mediation but if some things (or sometimes all things) aren’t resolved you can revert to an Arbitrator to make a decision for you.
Early Neutral Evaluation - sometimes, it’s very helpful to ask (or instruct) a neutral person to tell you (in person/Zoom or in writing) what might happen if the court was asked to make a decision on your situation (case). It can be creatively used to give an overview of what the law is in a particular area. The neutral person is usually a senior barrister, QC, solicitor or ex Judge. My role would be to prepare all the information to get the best results for the Early Neutral Evaluator.
Private FDR Judging
This is more formal than a straightforward Early Neutral Evaluation and will usually mimic the court procedure. The process allows you to either step away from the court process (just for this hearing) or you could have a Private FDR once you have all the financial information to hand in other processes (even traditional letter writing). Unless you agree otherwise, it’s not legally binding and any discussions cannot be used in any further court action or in Arbitration. [Although your offers to settle can be used in court later - so must be sensible and reasonable or risk costs orders against you].
Working with others apart from Jo
See Working with Others.
If you have a lot of financial resources or in contrast if you are in deep debt, use a financial coach/financial neutral /expert to help you understand it all. There’s so much to consider that it will likely feel overwhelming and something to just hurry up and finish. Yet, these are probably some of the biggest decisions you will ever make. The ramifications of the decisions made now will be with you until you die (and that’s not an exaggeration) and after (not the afterlife but for your surviving family/friends). I recommended that you work with someone who will help you understand the consequences of the choices you make now. It’s so much better to ‘cost out’ each of your ideas to see what the likely financial outcomes will be. Although nothing is guaranteed, of course, broadly speaking you can get a pretty good idea of what your future financial life will look like. I recommend you work with an independent financial advisor or a financial coach.
Therapists and counsellors
It can’t be emphasised enough how important it is to take the time to work with a therapist or a counsellor. It’s highly recommended to try the following:
- Use the Workbook I send you to think about what’s important to you and your future.
- Work on your own with a therapist or counsellor to acknowledge and unpick your complex emotions following a break up. They will help you reflect on what’s happened and to envisage a new future.
- Work with your ex and a therapist to work out how to separate with as much dignity as possible. They will also help you with your communication so it’ll get easier to speak about the children.
- Work with your ex and a therapist/counsellor to end the relationship - to make it a place to be ‘heard’. Sometimes, one person wants to leave but their partner won’t ‘hear’ them. The therapist can make it safe for you to have these difficult decisions.