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Senior Partner
Senior Partner, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 13326
Experience:  Solicitor with more than 30 years experience
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If a couple live together for 17 years...

Customer Question

Attachment: 2013-09-26_213032_briefing_document_v7.docx


If a couple live together for 17 years, have children, but DO NOT marry, what guidelines exist for division of assets when the relationship ends e.g. if A buys the property and is the sole name on the property deeds and has been the only one to pay the mortgage, does B have any rights to the property or A's business if B was not involved in it? In this case, A is the mother. Also, is there any time limit for B to make a claim (in this case, 6 years have elapsed since the relationship ended). A was the breadwinner throughout the relationship.



Optional Information: 
System of Law: England-and-Wales

Already Tried: 
Solicitor but would like 2nd opinion


Detail Required: HIGH; Urgency: HIGH

Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Senior Partner replied 4 years ago.
The default position between unmarked couples as it currently stands is that ownership of property is divided according to general legal principles. what this means in effect is that the there is no distinction between a couple who are in relationship and any other two people who may cooperate. There are limited exceptions to cater for the protection of children but otherwise as things currently stand an unmarked partner has no claim to the assets of he other partner unless he claiman can show that they contributed to them.

So simply if he never made any financial contribution to the purchase of eh house or the business he has no claim. There is generally a 6 year limitation on most claims but based upon what you say he has no bias for any claim against your assets.

I hope this confirms what your solicitor said.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Thanks, that is quite clear.

There were a few typos (but given you typed this at an unearthly hour, I understand why.



Customer: replied 4 years ago.

If I wanted access to an expert for related questions in this field, where would I look with confidence?

Expert:  Senior Partner replied 4 years ago.
Yes apologies for that. Answer Sent from a mobile device. You can post questions in specific categories. There is a property section and a family law section. Or were you looking for a solicitor for direct contact? In that case recommendation is best but you can search the law society website.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I think I am looking for a family law expert (solicitor or barrister) who I could contact direct via email so that I can provide the complete background so as to remove any uncertainty and to then advise on best steps to take to create 'firewalls' between the ex-partner and assets he might be tempted to grab or claim

Expert:  Senior Partner replied 4 years ago.
Hi apologies for the delay I have been travelling . It is not possible currently to do what you ask through this website. You have to post questions through the site. Happy to answer any specific questions but to be honest I cannot see why you need a "firewall" after this length of time. attempting to alienate assets is generally a bad idea anyway and leads to more issues than it solves.
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

I thought more than once about whether to answer your question (about why I would recommend a firewall but decided in the spirit of feedback about your profession I would. My confidence in your answer (and my cautious view about needing a firewall) is tainted by 3 events (here are 2);

1. I had a business until 2007 and prior to selling it had to buy out some existing minor shareholders. I was advised by a respectable law firm based in Bristol who had been my company's advisors for about 10 years. When I cam to sell the business if turns out their advice had ben defective and irt cost me c £25,000, a lot of anguish and a trip to to RCJ to correct their error (and did the Bristol firm offer anything by way of assistance, no, not even a "Sorry"

2. When I got advised (by a respectable firm based in Cheltenham and London) during my divorce I was advised (misled) about the merits of certain facts on my side. Did any of them work out in my favour. No.

So my jaded view of the legal profession is, recognise they aren't infallible, unlike most commercial organisations they will not say sorry or offer to correct their mistakes (they will deny everything) and therefore it is best to always have a plan B (preferably not relying on merely going back to the same lawyer for yer more equivocal advice clocking up fees.

So if you could answer my question (where could I go for paid specific advice( then that would be great). However, if this site prevents it so be it

Expert:  Senior Partner replied 4 years ago.
Well given the circumstances I am surprised you want my view.
Actually I dont think much of matrimonial lawyers who generally charge a lot and give no advice proactive or otherwise. But when a law firm makes a mistake they or their professional indemnity insurers should make good and if the Bristol firm made a mistake you should have made a claim and been indemnified by their insurers. Personally I have practised for 35 years and in that time like everyone else we have made a couple of minor errors but have made the clients whole .

So far as your firewall point is concerned I remain of the same view. The only way to set up obstacles is to alienate the assets or hide them. Any transition to do that can be attacked by a legitimate claimant but even if you were prepared to hide the assets and lie about it, it still has potentially unfortunate consequences.

Selling the property to someone below market for example leaves the risk that the transferee claims the property and denies any other deal. If you document a side deal and that fact comes out it makes you look dishonest. Putting it in trust is all very well but you cannot get it back again.

Moving house might be legitimate and distances the claim further but does she want to?

The bottom line is that based upon what you say the ex has no claim. That does not stop him form bringing one and it does not stop him from claiming to have made a contribution. If it comes down to an issue of one parties word against the other who do you think the court will believe if one party has gone to great lengths to conceal or alienate her assets?

If you want to go a someone specific then the ideal is to get someone recommended but it sounds as if this is unlikely.

This will give you a list of top family and private client lawyers but do not expect the ones at the top to be cheap.

There is a seperate list for the south west if you are still in Bristol