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Unmarried Couples - Rights on Separation - None?

(23 Posts)
Karenblixen Wed 15-May-13 17:56:55

I think I have now read every scrap of paper written on the legal situation of unmarried couples in England (14 years too late).

May I please point out that I am from another Western European country where the legal situation for cohabiting couples is different and therefore assumed it would be similar here, just to justify the naive attitude I had when I entered this relationship.

P and I met though work 16 or so years ago. He told me he was divorced and after he pursued me for a long time I started dating him. He seemed to be Mr Perfect, quickly proposed to me (three times), I became pregnant and he convinced me to move to the UK to get married and have a family together. I gave up my quite well paid position as a Sales Director and moved to the UK. He immediately persuaded me to spend some of my maternity payout on a joint holiday, tried to stop me from having my own bank account (I insisted on that) and admitted that his divorce was not finalised and he had decided not to get married anyway.

He also bought a house which is in name only and made me undersign a legal document that stated I have no residential rights.

His behaviour towards me changed and he turned into an "abusive twunt". After I had spent my savings during the following 18 months or so he proposed I should work for his business and employed me formerly. (During these 18 months he did not financially support me other than providing a roof over my head and food).

However, the money he is paying me is spent on household costs, bills etc but I am not contributing to the mortgage. It is irrelevant, but I have worked out that by using my tax allowance he is saving quite a lot and would spend almost the same on his own costs if he paid the same amount that he pays me to himself, due to his high tax code.

After all costs are paid there is not much more than a pocket money amount left for my personal spending and there is a huge imbalance between his and my own life style. My conclusion is therefore that I am "cheap labour".

We have two DCs (school age). I would like to suggest to him to split up but because of the children I would find that irresponsible on my part, as I would be left with nothing, as I understand current legislation.

I have another thread on relationships and have had simply overwhelming support from what have to be the nicest people I have "met" over here.

I am posting here to see if anyone has any experience or has split up in similar circumstances? Are there any legal loopholes? Or will I just have to accept the fact that I have worked very hard the past 15 years, raised our children, looked after the family home, worked in P's business, did all family admin, made sure the DCs get into good schools, gave up my flourishing career etc - to be left with nothing?

Thank you all who took the time to read this. Advice desperately needed.
I am stuck!

mumandlawyer Wed 15-May-13 19:50:04

The law in this jurisdiction does not do unmarried couples any favours. That said, you could make a claim under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act and/or Schedule 1 of the Children Act. The law is complex but it is certainly worth looking into. You said that you signed a document to say you had no 'residential rights' - meaning no right to live in the family home?? That doesn't sound right to me at all. Get a copy of the document you signed. If the house is in his sole name - you will need to protect your interest in it at the Land Registry by way of a restriction otherwise he can sell or remortgage without your knowledge. Please go and get some legal advice - where abouts are you?

MrsBertBibby Wed 15-May-13 19:51:47

As a parent with dependent children living with you (assuming that were the case) then even if you were considered to have no interest in the house, the Court could allow you to remain there until they reached 18 if you made an application under Trusts of Land & APpointment of Trustees Act. Once the kids were grown, however, you would have to hand it back to him, so that's not a long term solution!

As far as establishing an interest in the house is concerned, you may have a claim on the basis that you have made a contribution to the purchase price of the house, by earning and paying in. The Court can take the view that where you are paying all the bills, and he's paying the mortgage, you should effectively be considered as having been subsidising his mortgage payments. It's not cut and dried, however, and depends very much on the evidence.

Basically, where the house isn't actually in your joint names, the court can still decide that there is in fact a trust (ie you are entitled to a share) in certain circumstances. One is where there's an intention to share, and you have relied on that to your detriment, the other, which may apply to you, is where you can show a contribution directly referable to the purchase price (which can mean a contribution by paying for other stuff while he pays for the mortgage.)

That however is fiendishly complicated, and depends very much on how the evidence comes out, and what view the Judge takes of it.

It's extremely unsatisfactory, and unfair, but I'm afraid the best advice anyone can give you is to get this man to marry you.

MrsBertBibby Wed 15-May-13 19:53:31

Oh, and if you had no legal advice in relation to the document you signed, it's pretty unlikely to be of any use to him.

The short answer, I'm afraid, is get a solicitor. The law is a massive massive mess, and you need a lawyer to go through the whole thing in proper detail.

AuntieStella Wed 15-May-13 20:00:31

The document might be used simply to show that there was no common intention that she would have an interest in the property, at the outset at least. And that might be helpful to him.

MrsBertBibby Wed 15-May-13 20:14:24

I doubt it would hold much weight if i were signed without legal advice, however.

IT may have been a document to ensure any interest was postponed to a mortgage lender. Although then too, you need separate legal advice.

Viviennemary Wed 15-May-13 20:20:02

What a dreadful situation to be in. I don't think that agreement would hold a lot of weight. I would leave this totally unacceptable set-up as soon as possible. It sounds like financial abuse to me. And slave labour. He will have to pay maintenance at least for your two children. Why not see if you can get some legal advice through the Citizen's Advice Bureau. That would be my first action if I were you. Do something and don't let this carry on. Good luck.

Karenblixen Wed 15-May-13 21:27:11

mumandlawyer the document was drawn up by his solicitor, I was advised that he can sell, remortgage etc as he likes, but since the property is in his name only he could do that anyway. I undersigned the document in the presence of his solicitor as well as a witness. I did not have the choice and he pressurised me into signing it. I am in the south west.

Karenblixen Wed 15-May-13 22:16:45

Many thanks to everybody - I have just written long replies and my session must have timed out while I have been writing, I will go through it all again with a clear head tomorrow. How frustrating!

Karenblixen Wed 15-May-13 22:27:45

As to the house purchase, he did say initially we would buy this together but ridiculed my offer to contribute to the deposit. Until the actual contract was drawn up I still assumed it would be a joint purchase and I only realised that this was not the case when he said to the estate agent "it is not a joint purchase" . His reasoning was that I had no job (had left my job to be with him and have our child), no income and hence could not contribute to the mortgage.

HeliumHeart Thu 16-May-13 10:16:20

I'm so sorry you find yourself in this situation. Although it's not true that all lawyers give a free half hour, in my experience recently when phoning around to make those initial appointments, most were very generous with their time on the phone. I had three or four hour very comprehensive chats on the phone before even starting to talk about making appointments - they were very kind and it was me who kept trying to end the calls! I am not in your situation as I am married, but have been trying to sort through a very sticky divorce and with no money - my H kindly cut off all access to money as soon as we separated.

Wanted to also say that in your position, I would firstly compile a list of all the evidence you have and a timeline of how things have proceeded - the way you write it makes him sound very calculated in his decisions to exclude you. Any written evidence you have of this, collate in an initial statement, and take this information with you to any free appointments to save time. Also with the ones I came across who did offer the free initial consultation, in both instances it was an hour and not half an hour.

Wishing you luck, and reassurance - being poor and alone is far, far better than having more financial security and yet sharing a house with the very person who seems out to get you.

HeliumHeart Thu 16-May-13 10:17:03

Typo, that should read 'three or four very comprehensive' - didn't quite stretch to being four hour long phone chats! grin

Karenblixen Thu 16-May-13 10:20:51

MrsBertBibby my youngest child is eight years old which means that it would buy me a lot of time if I could stay in the house until she will have finished her education, up to 15 years, I suppose. Ideally, I would prefer him to pay for alternative accommodation, the house is quite big and I could not afford upkeep, council tax etc for such a substantial property. I will try and find out how likely it is that he will have to provide accommodation for his children that is not in his own home. Can he not just argue that they can stay where they are with him at no extra cost? If I secure the right to remain in the house, I can surely not make him leave?

Would it help me to try and persuade him to give me a rental contract and pay rent rather than household bills and get him to pay the DDs instead? There is still the substantial food bill to foot (at 25 stone he eats quite a lot) and that is quite difficult to divide up.

He is aware that he can make me homeless whenever he likes and does tell me frequently that I have no rights to the property. But initially he lead me to believe it was going to be shared.

As to subsidising his mortgage, does it matter that he could have easily afforded the mortgage anyway?

The arrangement was to my detriment, as I could have spent the money for example to purchase a property of my own rather than disproportionately contributing to his household with my biggest grudge being that I have to do all the housekeeping whilst working as well and that at 50% of the salary that I had 15 years ago. Is it worth mentioning that?

Well I have of course expressed my unhappiness about his change of heart regarding marriage at the time, but following his divorce he was no longer prepared to get married and I am pretty sure nothing will can change that. He is the sort of guy who will suddenly get married to a very young lady.

Our son asked him awhile ago why he did not want to get married to me and he replied that he had been married before and he did not want "mummy to run away with daddy's money".

Thank you very much all your useful information.

Karenblixen Thu 16-May-13 10:30:29

Heliumheart that's very useful to know, I have not even dared to phone a solicitor knowing that they will be unlikely to make any money out of me. I thought of trying legal aid since there is evidence of DA but as I officially have a salary I have to rule that out as well. I am almost considering representing myself? His solicitors would make mincemeat of me though, he has the best solicitors in the county.

Karenblixen Thu 16-May-13 10:36:00

Heliumheart if I took my folder to a solicitor would they actually look into that and give me half an hour of their time without an obligation to enter a contract?

HeliumHeart Thu 16-May-13 11:48:45

You are certainly not obliged to commit to anything and you can be sure that they will not give any of their time unless they feel happy doing so. It was my experience that they were helpful, even if that help meant immediately trying to point me in a more useful direction, given my lack of funds.

I decided in the end to pay for an initial session with the lawyer I went with - it cost a fixed amount (in my case £270 plus VAT) and went on for as long as was deemed necessary (almost 2 hours, with me). If there is any way you can get this money from somebody, you may find it worth it. You won't be worried about taking advantage of a free service when you don't think you can follow up with becoming a paid client. I haven't used the CAB but again, that is another possible (and free, obviously) option.

Since the consensus seems to be that you are in a very tricky situation however, I would be tempted to ask for recommendations, possibly on here, for lawyers in your area who might be particularly good at helping someone in your position. And then I might do whatever I could to raise the funds to get that advice, taking all the information with you.

Don't think that self-rep is necessarily beyond you, or that he will be at a great advantage by having hot lawyers. I recently self-repped for an injunction and return hearing, and found the Judge to be extremely patient and kind. I came away from the experience feeling empowered, if anything - and I tell you, it felt great being on the front bench, next to his lawyer, talking directly to the Judge, whilst my H had to suffer the 'indignity' of being on the row behind us, and not able to talk to the Judge himself. But then mine is a bit of an arrogant narcissistic arse, and was so annoyed by this he kept writing notes and jumping up to thrust them in front of his lawyer. Think he thought he was in the Old Bailey grin

Karenblixen Thu 16-May-13 13:26:16

That is very impressive HeliumHeart and the facts are the facts, that is true.

I should be able to afford the initial session within the next few months and that will hopefully get me started off. Too bad that there are no "No win no fee" lawyers out there for family lawsmile.

Mendi Sun 19-May-13 07:45:18

Sorry you're in this difficult situation OP. Just to say that if you do have to self-rep, judges are very sympathetic and bend over backwards to help you. Also if he is represented and you aren't, his lawyers will be expected by the court to do a lot to help you procedurally, as they are in a better position to do so than you are. E.g. Preparation of bundles (of documents) etc. So that will add to his costs (if that is any consolation!)

Karenblixen Sun 19-May-13 09:31:25

Thank you Mendi I am seriously considering representing myself if it comes to that, but I am also reading up on mediation. But come what may, it's about time I got my act together. Being on MN has given me a lot more confidence to stand up to him.

HeliumHeart Sun 19-May-13 10:44:56

Be wary of mediation if your partner is bullying/intimidating/abusive/controlling. I've had two sessions with mine and it has been excruciating and I'm seriously considering pulling out. My H spends almost the entire session pulling everything that everyone says to pieces - after the last session, when they sent out their notes, he immediately marked in red all the errors they'd made, before doing a 'reply to all' and sending it back to us. There were more words in red than there were on the original hmm It took us an entire 90 minute session to agree on one tiny thing - and because the mediators by definition can't push too much, they were really scrabbling around for ANY opportunity for us to find a compromise. But when one party's position is really extreme (say, for example, that they refuse to give you any money whatsoever), and the other person's is reasonable, then the 'middle ground' that is possible to reach is never going to be fair for the more reasonable person. Not sure if that makes sense..!

Karenblixen Sun 19-May-13 11:19:09

That makes a lot of sense, HeliumHeart! as with every negotiation with an unreasonable person/opposite party I would then have to make my own demands equally unreasonably high to reach a more or less acceptable middle ground, but this might get laughed at by the opposite party in this case because I don't really have a leg to stand on.

But your H sounds just like my P and this is exactly what he would do as well. I have observed him going through his divorce and I have equally observed him during business negotiations and once he gets going things can become very nasty.

What about your children? Does he consider their interests?

Xenia Sun 19-May-13 14:51:59

The advice above is accurate as is your conclusion (by the way Scotland is different from England on this point so assume you are in England).

I am afraid I very much support the fact we do not give rights to unmarried couples as plenty of women (and men) choose to have a lover move in but do not want the financial consequences of divorce. I would certainly support more publicity about the differences however so people know that if he does not propose it may well be for financial reasons.

As mentioned you may have a right to house the children and stay in the house until they are older under the Children Act.

The tale is one so common I wish more women would read about it. Never ever give up any career or money for man. If he wants a parent at home let him do that. If you are in different countries make the man move not you. Yet time and again women make these choices which ruin their position financially. Men hardly ever do.

If you have been an employee for more than 1 or 2 years then he may be unable to terminate your employment if you split without paying some damages for unfair dismissal so that should be part of your negotiations.

Also perhaps he wants you to stay so couples do negotiate "post nups" - you could agree to stay if he puts the property in joint names in 50% shares or only if he marries you.

Karenblixen Sun 19-May-13 23:51:45

All true, Xenia.

I have been an employee for over ten years that should be worth something.

A post nup is a great idea. I doubt very much that he will marry me now, but I think he does want me / us to stay.

Thank you.

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