Do unmarried couples who live together and have complicated living issues need to contact a solicitor if they’re splitting up? Here is TOLATA?

January is notorious for being the month where relationships are allegedly most likely to end. The first business day of the New Year has even been nicknamed ‘divorce day’ due to the large number of enquiries being received by family lawyers from married couples who want to separate after Christmas.

But what about unmarried couples, do you need to contact a solicitor if you are splitting up? Depending on your living situation and if you own anything jointly, the answer could well be yes.

Do unmarried couples have any rights on separation?

The law treats the breakdown of an unmarried relationship very differently to that of a marriage or civil partnership. Unmarried couples, even if they have lived together for a long time, do not have similar rights to married couples/ couples in civil partnerships and cannot make the same claims for maintenance or to support their need for housing that a married individual can on divorce.

What if we jointly own a Property? | Here is TOLATA

If you jointly own a property and you separate then you can make an application to the court under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA) to ask the court to declare what your share is in the property and decide whether the property should be sold and if so, determine the mechanism for sale.

Disputes about ownership of a jointly owned property can be negotiated outside of the courts but it is important to understand your legal position in the first instance before entering any negotiations with your ex-partner. What share you could be entitled to in the property is dependent on how you both own the property, what documents were created in terms of your joint ownership and what contributions each of you made to the property. It is also advisable to have a written agreement drawn up after any negotiations that confirm what is to happen to the property and what share that you would receive from the sale proceeds. It is important to understand that an agreement reached in relation to land which is not committed to writing and signed by the parties, could be unenforceable if the other party gets cold feet.

What if you live in your partner’s Property? 

If you live in a property in the sole name of your partner the presumption in law is that you have no interest or share of that property, and you will not have any occupation rights that a married person might.

However, it is possible to rebut this presumption and make a claim that you have an interest in their property if you can show that there was an agreement between you that you would have a share in their property and that you acted to your disadvantage in reliance on that understanding. This normally requires you to have contributed to the equity in the property for money or for monies worth.

If you have such a claim, you can also apply to the court under TOLATA to ask them to decide on if you have an interest in the property and what this interest would be.

Getting Help | TOLATA

Claims as to if you are entitled to a share or a greater share in a property under TOLATA can be complex and are very fact dependent and it is best to seek professional legal advice qualified professional who specialises in this area of the law.

If you would like to book an appointment with one of our knowledgeable and approachable specialists, please get in touch.