When unmarried, cohabiting couples separate, divorce is obviously not an option, but there are several out-of-court alternatives for dispute resolution, including mediation – a popular choice for couples who wish to settle their affairs with dignity and cooperation.
If you’ve been living with your partner as a cohabiting couple and have decided to separate, you may find the legalities of dividing up your assets more complicated than you expected. Despite recent changes to family law, cohabiting couples are still not awarded the same rights as married couples or civil partnerships. Shared or joint purchases may not necessarily be divided equally, and property rights can be a point of conflict when one partner’s name is not on the deeds. The last thing you want when you’re going through a break up is having to prove your interest in your property, or quibbling over a joint savings account.
It’s important to know your legal rights as a cohabitant. If you have a cohabitation agreement or Declaration of Trust in place, these will detail your intentions for how to divide up your estate and help to resolve any issues that arise during separation. If not, you will need to negotiate the terms of your separation with your ex. In either case, mediation is an ideal solution for separating cohabitants.
Mediation is an effective method of dispute resolution that involves the cooperation of both parties, along with the help of a professional mediator-solicitor. While mediation is often confused with couples counselling, it is in fact a practical legal procedure that works to resolve disputes over children, property, savings, pensions, investments and other assets.
Mediation can help you to make important decisions about your housing situation, the division of childcare, and how to come to a fair settlement. Compared to a court divorce, mediation is often quicker, cheaper, and less stressful, since you are in control of the outcome and must work together as a couple to find the best solution for your unique situation. Throughout the process you will have the support and advice of a mediator who is an expert in family law, and you may also seek further legal advice if necessary. For example, if you and your ex have a dispute over property and you do not have a cohabitation agreement in place, you may wish to pursue a Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees act claim (TOLATA), which may help you to claim money back from your property.
Once you have come to an agreement, your solicitor will prepare a memorandum of understanding which sets out the details of your proposals, which you can choose to have drafted into a binding agreement. Couples who use mediation tend to feel more satisfied with the outcome of their separation, and are statistically more likely to stick to the decisions they make for co-parenting in the future.
Speak to one of the Resolution-trained mediators at Frances Lindsay & Co to find out your options for mediation as a cohabitant. Our mediation services cover the whole of Berkshire and Buckinghamshire, including Beaconsfield, Gerrards Cross, Henley, High Wycombe, Maidenhead, Marlow and Windsor. Visit us at www.franceslindsay.co.uk or call the team on 01628 634667Tags: cohabitation, cohabitation agreements, cohabitation month, mediation for cohabitants, mediation solicitor Thames Valley, mediator lawyer Beaconsfield, mediator Maidenhead