“Money, money, money – must be funny – in a rich man’s world…….”

We’ve all heard of pre-nups for the rich and famous but those of us who live more “ordinary” lives also should think about finances when going into a relationship and, sadly, if things start to go wrong – don’t let “heart rule head”.  I’m grateful to my colleague, Vijaya Sumputh, a Family Law expert at Curwens Solicitors, for her thoughts on this :


Beginning a new relationship can often feel like entering uncharted waters. All you want to do is to live happily ever after with your new partner, but people often don’t consider what happens if the relationship ends.  A split can have a devastating emotional impact and financial uncertainty adds significant stress to an already difficult time.   A recent study suggests that as many as 2 million Britons are in debt because their ex-partner continued to spend after they’d separated – a “dirty separation trick” by a bitter “Ex”.

Married Couples

Here, the Court has the power under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 to split the debt between the two parties based on their financial needs and the Court may award more to the paying party including spousal maintenance to cover the repayments.

Unmarried Couples

There is no such protection for unmarried, cohabiting couples. In long term relationships, many couples set up joint bank accounts (even if marriage is not their immediate plan) to cover mortgage/rent and bills. This normally ends once the relationship comes to an end, because living with someone does not create a legal relationship.   So, if a couple has a joint debt and then splits up, both can end up being liable for the debt and one may be stuck with it if the other party doesn’t pay.  Unmarried couples must think about what happens to their investments if they split up – if the family home is to be sold, how will the proceeds be split ?


You can protect yourself by getting your solicitor to draft a “Cohabitation” or  “Living Together” agreement (also known as a deed) which sets out who pays what and what would happen to the assets if the relationship comes to an end, with a Declaration of Trust as to the ownership of the house.  You can also consider using Mediation or negotiation to resolve issues.

It may seem pessimistic to think about a relationship ending when you’re just starting out together, but on the other hand, a break up can be devastating emotionally, so a living together agreement helps with the practical issues, to reach a quick settlement.

If you think what I have described fits your circumstances, do give Vijaya a call for a no obligation chat on 0208 363 4444 or e-mail us at vijaya.sumputh@curwens.co.uk


It’s never too late ……..

Who believes in the myth of the “Common Law Spouse” ?

You do ?

Well, in that case, this post, courtesy of my colleague, Vijaya Sumputh, Family Law Solicitor here at Curwens, will make interesting reading………(spread the word…)

“According to recent census data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of over-65 couples cohabiting outside marriage has doubled in the span of a decade. In 2011 only 9% of people in that age group had been divorced as opposed to 2001, where only 4.5% had experienced a divorce. Since then, cohabitation among older people has almost doubled. In 2001, only 1.6 % lived with a partner but that number had jumped to 2.8% by 2011 and has been increasing ever since.

A combination of other factors has been suggested for the rise in the ONS report such as:

1. Increased life expectancy and better health.
2. Divorce is no longer such a stigma as it was in the past, while now the increasing economic independence of women means more can afford to divorce.
3. As older people are living longer and enjoying better health, affairs and adultery are becoming more common among this age group, leading to marital splits.
4. To protect their children’s inheritance from previous marriages.

Over 6 million people are now living together, with millions of children between them. Those who chose to live together appear blissfully unaware of how it could all end – that they don’t have the same rights or tax advantages as married couples when a relationship breaks down, probably because of the myth of the “common law” husband or wife, which actually has no basis in law. If one partner is financially dependent on the other there is no legal relationship created, no automatic right to share in financial assets like property, income or pensions and no automatic right to a share on death either. Some people also believe that the length of time they have cohabited makes a difference, but that too, is an urban myth.

Sadly, there’s no law currently in place to protect cohabitants. The Law Commission and the Supreme Court have strongly recommended a law that would recognise and compensate for economic loss for cohabitants in a qualifying cohabitation relationship but the last two governments have refused to recognise the need to introduce a law protecting cohabitant rights.

While there are ways to protect yourself against any future relationship split such as a “Living Together Agreement” which will clarify who pays what and what would happen to contents and so on if the relationship comes to an end and a Declaration of Trust as to the ownership of a house. On death, a well drafted will should help too, particularly given the taxation disadvantages of cohabitation. All these solutions only tinker around the edges and while I would definitely recommend them all, none of these provides for cohabitation breakdown as comprehensively as a new tailor-made law that is fit for the purpose of our modern society.

We can only hope (but not hold our breath) that our new government will have time to consider the requested recommendation during its term.”

Vijaya Sumputh