The situation depends on whether or not you are married:
Unmarried couples: If you are anxious about what will happen about your home on the break up of your relationship, there are number of issues you need to consider:
If your home is jointly-owned, there could be a deed of trust (a written agreement) setting out your individual financial contributions and the shares in which you hold the property. If there is, the likelihood is that you will be bound by the terms of that agreement.
If your home is jointly-owned and there is no written agreement, as is often the case, you would normally hold as joint tenants.
If your home is held in the sole name of your ex, then you could still be able to make a claim for a share of the property if you have made contributions to the purchase of the property, paid off the mortgage or helped pay it off, or paid for a new roof and a loft conversion. What is important is the intention of you and your ex and so if, for example, you intended to marry this would give a stronger inference that you intended to share the benefit of the property. For this reason, it is sensible if you aren’t a co-owner to make direct payments towards the mortgage to establish an interest. You would need to make an application under the Trusts of Land & Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (known as ‘TOLATA’) to establish the extent of your interest or to apply for sale of the property.
If you are the parent there are further options. You may be able to make an application (under the Children Act 1989) for your ex to provide a new home, or make a contribution, where the children can live with you until they finish full-time education. At that point your ex would have his contribution returned to him. You might be able to prevent the sale of your home if you were able to buy him out of his interest.
Married couples: The property where you live, even if it is in the sole name of your ex, becomes the ‘matrimonial home’ and you have rights to that property, including not to be evicted from the property without a court order. Assuming you do not own the property, you can place a married persons’ block, known as a ‘Homes Rights Notice’ which would entitle you to occupy the property. It should also alert any potential purchasers of your interest and thereby preventing it from being sold without your knowledge. In order to protect your rights, you must register that right at the Land Registry. However this is not failsafe and there have been cases where properties have been sold in spite of the Notice.
The matrimonial home is often the main financial asset – and the court’s starting point, certainly, in a long marriage, is that assets should be shared equally.
Thanks very much to Punam Denley, a partner at the International Family Law Group LLP for reviewing and to David Hodson, also partner at the International Family Law Group LLP, who reviewed an earlier version which appeared in A Parent’s Guide to the Law by Jon Robins (LawPack , 2009). Stephen Lawson, a litigation partner at Forshaws Davies Ridgway LLP assisted with the section on the CSA.