unmarried moving in

Unmarried and Moving in?

Unmarried and Moving in? 

Many people will decide to take their relationship to the next level and buy their first home together. While lost in the waves of excitement, most will forget to remember a crucial detail to protect themselves financially. This may not be romantic for you or your partner, but it is important to how things should be if the relationship ever comes to an end.

There are two ways how you and your partner can protect yourselves financially if things don’t work out. Either entering into a cohabitation agreement or a declaration of trust. 

In one of our previous articles we discussed cohabitation agreements but how is declaration of trust different?

Declaration of Trust

It formally sets forth the conditions on which an asset, such as a property, is held in trust. As well as recording the property’s ownership, the document usually includes other terms agreed upon by the parties.

The purpose of a Declaration of Trust

In a Declaration of Trust, it is specified how a beneficial interest in a property is held. Additionally, it serves as evidence of the agreement. Conversely, cohabitation agreements are more comprehensive and usually specify what will happen if a relationship breaks down.

When a property is sold or transferred, this document confirms how the net sale proceeds will be distributed or which shares will be passed on. Furthermore, if one or more of the owners pass away, it could provide details about the ownership and shares passed to an estate.

Moreover, it can serve as an overview of the day-to-day dealing of property ownership, such as payments for mortgages, bills, renovations, and other services.

Why is it important?

When things do not go as planned, it protects your investment in the property.  Also, it documents how the property is owned, preventing any assumptions or confusion about the shares and general ownership.

In the event that the owner’s separate, the funds and contributions will be documented and protected legally.

This document describes the position which owner contributes more toward a purchase price, mortgage repayments, or improvements to the property. When the property is sold, funds are returned accordingly.

Any time you prepare a legal document, we suggest you seek professional advice. At Michael Spoors Solicitors we give you advice based on your situation. For more information on detailed aspects of cohabitation law and cohabitation agreement, contact us on 01983 632006 or email us on info@michaelspoors.co.uk

royal divorce

A Royal Divorce

Princess Haya and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum lived large during their marriage, having multiple villas and a $400 million super yacht and also spending over $2m on strawberries. It seemed money could buy everything, until HRH was blackmailed by her lover and his companions which resulted in her paying for their silence with $7,5 million (around £5,606,240) using her daughter’s trust account.

But the silence was short lived.

The sheikh divorced his wife when he found out about the affair which led to multiple court proceedings costing over £70m in legal fees.

How is this case unique?
Upon a balance of probabilities, the high court judge found that:

  • Sheikh Mohammed orchestrated the abductions of Princess Latifa and Princess Shamsa; two of his other children. Princess Shamsa was abducted from the streets of Cambridge in 2000 – also subjected Haya to a course of “intimidation”.
  • While Haya and five associates including two of her lawyers were in court, he hacked their phones using Pegasus spyware from NSO Group, which only can be used by governments.
  • His agents tried to buy a £30m estate next door to Haya’s Berkshire home, putting her “at serious risk”.

During the court proceedings, there were no signs of the alleged blackmailers.

After the proceedings the judge ordered the ruler to pay over £500m – the largest divorce settlement in UK history – from which he has to pay £250m upfront then provide a bank guarantee of £290m for annual payments in settlement so her ex-wife could continue to enjoy the lifestyle to which she and her children have become accustomed.

A settlement of £210m will cover Haya’s lifetime security costs, along with those of her children until they complete tertiary education. Moreover, he must also pay £41.5 million for chattel cash for education and maintenance arrears to his ex-wife and £5.6 million per year to each child in maintenance until they finish tertiary education, when he must instead pay them directly with the same amount as their security. Taking the bank guarantee into account, the settlement would total £554m, although it depends on how long the annual payments last.

Why have a prenup?
A prenuptial agreement can save thousands, or in this case millions. Princess Haya and Sheikh Mohammed did not have a prenup which led to these long court proceedings costing a large sum. A prenuptial agreement can help to protect your and your spouse’s wealth in the event of a divorce and makes assets easier to divide.


How to support your children emotionally through divorce

The emotions you and your child(ren) may go through will be unpredictable when facing the unknown. Regardless of how much you thought about it previously, divorce can affect children of a certain age and conflict between the parents usually is the main cause. It is important to show them their feelings still matter. We have created a list to help you support your children through your divorce.

Your children come first

Even though this seems obvious, there may be people who forget their children are involved in the process and may overlook how to handle their thoughts, feelings, and emotions. It is all too easy for your children to feel rejected by either, or both parents, so make sure they are front and centre of any decisions you make.

Inform them about the divorce together (if possible)

It is important that you both explain the situation to your children together. The children are more accepting of divorce and make them deal with it better when both parents behave peacefully around each other when informing them. By telling them about the situation you allow them to process. Having this conversation together shows your children that you are capable of co-parenting them also showing there is no one at fault.

There will be anger

Most likely your children will not want you to separate, which is understandable. They may feel angry, and start displaying bad behaviour out of frustration because of your divorce. This needs to be handled firmly, but lovingly. While discipline is important, understanding the reason behind their anger can make a difference and address issues quickly. Identify what is and isn’t acceptable for them to do in a healthy manner.

Assure them they aren’t at fault

During divorce, children will blame themselves. Although things may change, both parents need to assure the children know that they are not to blame. It will be helpful to talk about living arrangements before you discuss it with the children and make sure to stick to those arrangements.

Honesty is the best policy

Answer their questions honestly. It is not necessary to go into every detail, but if they ask a question, they deserve an honest answer. Keep it age appropriate and be patient – they may ask the same question repeatedly, but they need to hear it over and over again. Be open to their questions. Allow them to express their grief.

We understand that parenting is not easy during a divorce and not everything will be full of roses. At Michael Spoors we aim for the best possible outcome regarding your situation. For more information on the complex aspects of family law, contact us on 01983 632006 or email info@michaelspoors.co.uk.

step parents rights

A Step-Parent’s Rights

During a divorce, or a separation, as a step-parent you may have many questions regarding their rights to see the child. Potentially, you might have lived as a family unit for years, building a close and personal relationship and forging a close bond. Now they face concerns about how their ex-partner will allow the relationship to proceed.

What is the legal definition of a step-parent?

In the UK step-parents are defined as – a person who marries one of the biological parents of a child. Regardless of the time living with the biological parent of the child(ren), a person will only qualify in legal terms as a step–parent if the person marries the biological parent of the child(ren). If they were not married to the biological parent, but lived together with them, then their rights will be slightly different. A lot will depend on whether or not you have parental responsibility for the child.

Is it possible to obtain Parental Responsibility as a step-parent?

As a step-parent, you can obtain parental responsibility. If you marry or enter into a civil partnership with the child’s parent, you are not automatically obtaining parental responsibility by living with them. You may obtain parental responsibility by signing a Parental Responsibility Agreement, adopting the child, or obtaining a court order. Without this agreement, you cannot make any decisions for the child – such as signing permission slips for school, or giving consent to medical treatment.

How do you obtain a parental responsibility agreement?

The step-parent must consent to the Parental Responsibility Agreement as well as the child’s other parent (if they have parental responsibility) plus anyone else with parental responsibility. You need to apply for a  Parental Responsibility Agreement form from your local court, which must be signed by all at a court in the presence of a court officer. 

The form must be completed separately for each child and, if you are married to the child’s biological parent, your marriage certificate will be required. Parental responsibility can be extremely emotional and unsettling if the child’s other parent does not agree that you should also have it. If the other parent doesn’t agree to sign the agreement you will need to get a court order granting you parental responsibility presuming that you both feel that it is in the child’s best interest for you to have it. 

What the Step-parent parental responsibility means

It will grant you the same rights and responsibilities as the birth parents in regards to raising the child. It gives you an equal right in matters relating to the child. You do not automatically have a right to see, or spend time with, a child after you separate from the biological parent. Adoption is the only legal exception to this rule. You are also not required to pay child maintenance after separation.

In the complex area of family law, our solicitors aim for achieving outstanding results for our clients. For more information contact us on 01983 632006 or email info@michaelspoors.co.uk.

quickie divorce

The Myth: Quickie Divorce

Many people may fall into the hopes of online services that offer a quick alternative to divorce. 

Generally, a “quickie divorce” cannot be arranged. In the media and the press, celebrities are often reported as having been granted a “quick” divorce, when in fact, there has never been such a divorce. It refers to the pronouncement of a decree nisi in open court, which provides the petitioning party with rights to a divorce. Six weeks after the final divorce certificate is granted, the decree absolute will be issued. Expert reports state that it normally takes between four and six months for a divorce to be finalized and it may result in a longer process if there is a need to settle financial matters.

The divorce process remains largely the same, regardless of whether a couple divorces in a shorter period of time than others. Having said that, your divorce can still be completed efficiently, carefully, and provide you with the best possible outcome, but you should not have unreasonable expectations of how fast it will be completed.

The reality behind the term

The term “quickie divorce” is used in the media, but has no meaning under the law. Divorce is an archaic procedure. Instead of taking weeks, it takes months. In many cases, the final step – the decree absolute – is applied for only after all financial issues have been resolved. After the initial petition, it can take several months to resolve all financial matters.

What causes confusion is that the initial process of divorce does not address the division of marital finances, which is an issue that couples are generally unable to settle. On average, couples who take this matter to court instead of settling it outside of court take more than a year to resolve.

The next step

We specialise in family law and divorce. It is much better for you, and your loved ones, to achieve the best outcome possible for your circumstances. If you need more information on the complex aspects of divorce then contact us on 01983 632006 or email us info@michaelspoors.co.uk.

Life after divorce

In addition to illness and death, divorce is one of the most devastating events in a person’s life. Essentially, you are losing someone you care about. The person your ex-spouse was to you is gone, and they take on a new role in your life after divorce.

However, every challenge offers the possibility of renewal. In spite of a painful divorce, good things can happen if you are able to spot them and allow them to unfold.

1. It’s a second chance

Divorce is a significant catalyst for change. Your dreams and aspirations come flooding back that you may have ‘forgotten’ for years. You no longer face obstacles to your dreams, like the disapproval of your spouse, that you may have had before. You might find that you have more options than you could have ever imagined, and you can focus on yourself again.

In case you have children, you may be able to co-parent, giving you more free time. At the very least, you have freed up the time and energy you once used attempting to resurrect your relationship.

2. Your children will thrive despite all odds.

Often, children of divorce adjust better to change than we think. Studies have found that children of divorce grow up to be well-adjusted adults.

Divorce does not mean that you should not consider the effects it may have on your children. They will need your support while transitioning into their new lifestyle and they will need time to adjust. You are learning what it means to no longer be married, while they are learning what it means to be a child of divorce. In family counselling, participants can freely express their emotions and learn coping skills for life after divorce.

Although your children’s family structure has changed, they still have their friends, their school, and their leisure activities to help them cope with difficult times. Maintain a positive environment in your home and try not to worry, because the more positive you are about your new family structure, the more likely they will be to accept it.

3. Learning not to care about what others think will be an invaluable lesson.

Others may start treating you differently because of your divorce and notice it first hand. You may waste time keeping up appearances and repairing the friendships you formed through marriage. However, some friendships, as well as professional relationships, are bound to fade away as you adjust and adapt to the intense changes life has thrown at you.

As you work hard to keep everything together – emotionally, financially, etc. – you simply stop focusing on the opinions of others who are not supportive. There might be less jealousy towards your married friends than you expect. You know how it feels. You were in their shoes once, and it wasn’t all roses.

Gradually, your awareness will shift. You are not a lesser person because of your divorce and it is time to follow your own path. During your marriage, you compromised every single day, and from now on you won’t compromise your values. You should not be judged by those who have no regard for your character.

4. Becoming confident

When you experience the worst thing you could possibly imagine, something remarkable happens. Uncertainty becomes less scary. This allows you to develop a “what’s the worst that could happen” mindset. 

In some strange way, you become more open to life. When you become more open to new experiences, and less afraid of the possible outcome, you start to take opportunities that allow for personal growth.

5. Your life may be happier now than when you were married.

Happiness is a by-product of getting through change. It is clear that you have put yourself first, and you are growing into the person you always dreamed of becoming. There will be days when it still hurts.

At some point, you will stop fighting change, and your life will get easier. Due to the absence of arguments, infidelity, lack of physical attraction, and any other combination of factors that contributed to the demise of your marriage, you will feel lighter. This will relieve you of the guilt of acting in a way you did not intend. Hence, you are no longer stuck in that place where you were simply holding on out of fear of letting go.

Our focus is family law and divorce. It is in the best interests of both you and your loved ones to achieve the best outcome possible. If you need more information on the complex aspects of divorce or family law then contact us on 01983 632006 or email us info@michaelspoors.co.uk.

coparenting during divorce

Co-parenting during and after divorce

Parenting and co-parenting are hard in general. If you find co-parenting harder during your divorce, that is because it is harder. The transition from an intimate adult relationship, through separation, to a co-parenting one is always challenging, and there will be times when it will seem insoluble.

The best way to ensure your child’s needs is having both parents involved. (Unless your family has experienced serious issues such as domestic violence and substance abuse.)

There are many techniques you can both use to help you along the way. Legal advice is not always enough when it comes to agreeing the right arrangements for your children. It will also help you avoid further complications. It is essential to learn how to be effective parents whilst living apart. There are many future challenges to navigate: schooling choices, introduction of new partners, managing teenage rebellion, and maintaining, above all, the integrity of your family structure, just in a new form.

We have collected five ways to help you through the transition of your separation to co-parent successfully.

1. Look after each other

Even though it is hard and probably something that you do not want to do right now, remember that the best way to care for a child is for the parents to care for each other. Your child is going to feel consequences if you hurt each other. The reason they’ll feel responsible is because they think it’s probably their fault that you’re arguing. So they’ll want to do something about it.

2. Anger reduces the ability to provide care

Making another parent feel bad is the worst thing you can do, because it makes them into a bad parent themselves. Our self-esteem is affected by how we feel about ourselves, and our parenting is also affected. Providing your child with support and resources so that they see love in the other parent will encourage your child to believe that they are loved.

3. Try to avoid resentment

Often, when we have been hurt, thinking about how horrible the other person is helps us to feel better about what happened. It’s their fault not ours. In addition to being bad for your mental health, negatively ruminating or rehearsing your story of righteous indignation can damage your body by flooding it with corrosive adrenaline.

4. Blaming helps us to avoid accountability

If life doesn’t go well, possibly blaming someone else is an effective temporary solution until we can get our lives back on track. We can in fact become so entrenched in blaming and holding someone 100% responsible, but they most likely won’t agree with us. So you get a lawyer, who agrees with you, and they get a lawyer, who agrees with them. This makes matters difficult for you, your ex-partner, but most importantly for your children.

5. Communication

Communication is a key factor in resolving matters with less friction. It can be very hard. In many cases, getting some impartial professional advice at the beginning of a new co-parenting relationship is all the couple needs to move toward a much better, more constructive relationship that will last a lifetime.

There is often confusion and stress when a relationship ends. We can help you determine what the best solution is for you. For more information on detailed aspects of family law, contact us on 01983 632006 or email us on info@michaelspoors.co.uk.

joint custody arrangements

Joint custody arrangements

According to the UK Children’s Act 1989, joint residency is a legal decision regarding the custody and/or residence of children of separated parents.

Shared custody does not always indicate a 50/50 split between the parents, but merely that both parents have the child living with them at some point. Children may live with one parent on weekends and holidays and the other the rest of the time.

Joint custody decisions will be made with the child’s best interests at heart. Whenever possible, it is important to ensure that the child’s routine is not disrupted. It is generally recognized that joint custody is beneficial for the child to have continued contact with both parents and to remain active in their child’s life. However, it is not without its challenges.

Voluntary agreement regarding joint custody

Parenting arrangements determine the child’s living arrangements and the amount of time that the child spends with each parent. It may be reached through informal discussions and negotiations between both parties or through mediation or the courts if an agreement cannot be reached independently.

Informal negotiations

To start, you should consider deciding between yourselves. It might be possible to write a parenting plan. This will cover important details such as where the child will live, who will pay for what, how long they will spend in each home, and other day-to-day arrangements. This agreement is not in itself legally binding. Those seeking joint custody should speak with a family law specialist if they wish to make the arrangement legally binding. The solicitor you hire will be able to draft the Consent Order which both you and your ex-partner will need to sign. Both parties will be able to enforce this document, which contains the same information as the parenting plan. 

“What happens if we cannot come to an agreement?”

You may ask the courts to decide if an agreement cannot be reached. A ‘Directions Hearing’ is the first step, which includes a family court advisor to determine what aspects you are or are not able to agree upon.

Unless there are extreme factors regarding your circumstances, the courts will expect you to attend one Mediation Information and Assessment Meeting (MIAM), before accepting your application for a hearing. They will encourage you to always think about what is best for the child.

“What is the court decision based on?”

When determining where the child should live and who should have custody, the child’s welfare will be of the utmost importance. If your child is over the age of 12, they may be asked about their feelings regarding the situation. This could have a great impact on what the decision would be.

How we can help

We understand the importance of your child’s safety and will work hard to ensure that their best interests are the number-one priority when decisions are made. For more information on the complex aspects of family law, contact us on 01983 632006 or email info@michaelspoors.co.uk.

rights of unmarried couples

Rights of unmarried couples

Couples living together without getting married have formed Britain’s rapidly expanding family-type. Despite such growth in numbers, unmarried couples living in England and Wales have fewer rights. Although there is no legal definition for unmarried couples, a similar arrangement is often referred to as a common-law marriage. This term has now been admitted out-dated since there is no such thing as a common-law spouse.

Common-law marriage is not recognised by the family courts. Cohabiting relationships, and other alliances are hardly recognised at law and do not possess sufficient protection. In response, individuals in similar relationships also have fewer responsibilities to each other in the face of separation and break-up.

The courts in England and Wales do not have a clear framework to follow while deciding on unmarried couples’ matters after splitting up. Although cohabiting couples in Scotland do have some basic rights if their relationship ends.

For this very reason, unmarried couples should enter into cohabitation agreements beforehand, which can align things well if the partnership ever comes to an end.

Inheritance rights
The surviving partner has no automatic right to inherit from the deceased’s estate, if other partner in a cohabiting relationship dies without a will, either under statute or common law. To benefit from the deceased partner’s estate, a surviving partner can make a claim from their estate under the Inheritance Act 1975, within the specific time frame of 6 months. 

Upon receiving an application, the court examines several aspects, including the applicant’s unconventional circumstances and the other inheritors of the deceased’s property. Then a decision will be made whether the applicant should be provided with a share in the inheritance.

Property Rights
Spending considerably large amount for a family home is often the most significant investment made by many people living in the UK. Which takes sufficient time and devotion from both individuals in a relationship. 

The arrangement is very similar to that of married couples when an unmarried partner dies. Except for the imposition of inheritance tax upon spouses. The partner only gets to retain the entire house upon the death of the other partner if they own it as a joint tenancy. If both the partners as a tenancy-in-common owned the house, the deceased partner’s share would be treated as part of their estate and passed along through inheritance. 

In the cases where the deceased partner holds the entire title to the family home, the other partner is left with no legal rights to remain in the house. This means the surviving partner can be asked to leave. In such a situation, it can be averted if the couple have children and in need of essential housing.

Conversely, when the relationship comes to an end, placing a claim is very different from cases of married couples. Former partners in an unmarried couple cannot claim “ownership” over the property of the other partner after a break-up. To amicably sort matters after the break-up, the partners can either sell the property, that is jointly owned by both, profits from which may be received by both, according to their shares. They can also choose to sell their share if one of the partners wishes to buy the other’s share in the property. 

Courts are very reluctant to intervene robustly and divide the parties’ properties equally, where applicable, the way it happens in divorce. The court may determine the shares of the former partners by looking at each partner’s financial contributions towards the home’s family and household expenses and adjudging whether a trust had formed.

Spousal Support
In the absence of any formal agreement of marriage or partnership, none of the former partners is responsible for providing for the other’s maintenance or financial well-being after the split. This means none of them could claim any support from the other post-break-up, even if the partner lived together for decades. However, if the partners have already started a family and have children, child support will have to be provided.

Parental Responsibility
Parental responsibility for children automatically belongs to the mothers. Alternatively, fathers may only be eligible to receive parental responsibility by qualifying for any of the following scenarios. The first one is by marrying the mother of the child(ren), and/or by jointly registering the children’s birth.

Parental responsibility gives parents the right to children’s custody and their decisions for education, welfare, and religion, amongst others.

Joint Banking
Due to relationship status, many unmarried couples do not see procedures and rules differently, although marriage was never essential to open a joint bank account. Joint bank accounts can help providing a shared record of cashflow.  The other joint operator of the account has the freedom to take out all the money present in the account if ever you split up with them, whilst the joint account keeps operating as before. A close association through a joint account with the other partner also means that the partner’s credit score or poor financial record directly impacts your personal credit score.

Debt sharing
Partners in a cohabiting relationship are responsible of the debts they take up individually and exclusively. A person cannot be accountable nor forced to pay any debts which their partner has failed to pay or defaulted. Conversely, if the debt was in both partners’ joint name, both shall be liable to pay the amount borrowed during the set monthly instalments (where applicable).

What are my options?
For further information on the complex aspects of family laws or to find out what can be done in your circumstances, contact us on 01983 632006 or email us on info@michaelspoors.co.uk

cohabitation agreement

Cohabitation Agreement

In the last 15 years there was a sharp increase in the number of cohabiting couples that led to a rise in complex legal disputes when these relationships come to an end.

The number of unmarried couples has doubled since the mid 1990s. In contrary to common belief, an unmarried couple doesn’t have the same legal protection as those who are married. This can mean that one partner can be left without nothing, as the law treats their property as separate.

What is cohabitation agreement?
A cohabitation agreement, also known as living together agreement, is a legal document, enforceable by the court if it is properly executed and providing you have both been truthful about your finances and each obtained separate legal advice upon its terms. Such an agreement is used to set out which partner owns what and in what portion of the shared assets. It also let’s you document how the shared property, personal belongings, contents of the property, savings and other assets will be split after the break-up. It can also cover other things like supporting and maintaining children, as well as dealing with bank accounts, debts, and joint purchases, such as a car.

The cohabitation agreement can also cover things like:

  • Deposit on shared home
  • Life insurance
  • Pets
  • Pensions
  • Next of kin rights

You have no direct legal rights in a relationship if you are not married or in a civil partnership except in respect of mutually owned assets.

What are the benefits of getting a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement can provide peace of mind, as it can protect either or both of you during break up. By coming to an agreement, before or whilst living together you will:

  • Have clear understanding of your financial commitments 
  • Avoid misunderstandings regarding the ownership of the property, your rights, and responsibilities
  • Avoid difficulties and disagreements if you split up.
  • Having clear evidence if court proceedings are required.

Why do you need a cohabitation agreement?
The law in the UK currently does not give any financial protection to people cohabiting unless they are married. If a non-marital relationship comes to an end, this can leave one party completely destitute if they have no assets of their own. For more information on detailed aspects of cohabitation law and cohabitation agreement, contact us on 01983 632006 or email us on info@michaelspoors.co.uk