Breaking up is hard to do financially for cohabiting couples

Q MY BOYFRIEND and I bought a property together six years ago. We each paid £10,000 as a deposit and were splitting the mortgage equally, with the exception of 12 months while my boyfriend was unemployed.

During that time I paid the full mortgage and most of the household bills. We recently ended our relationship, although we are still living together while we sort out the sale of the flat and try to reach a financial agreement. I wondered what advice you could give and what rights I have?

GR Paisley

A The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 introduced basic rights to protect cohabitants where there is breakdown in their relationship. Cohabitants are able to make a financial claim against their former partner on separation, but this legislation does not give them the same rights as married couples and civil partners.

The act provides for the sharing of household goods purchased during the period the couple lived together. However, this does not include gifts or any items that you or your partner have inherited from a third party. If a decision cannot be reached, then the law presumes that items are owned jointly by the couple, with goods shared or the value shared.

Money, securities, any car or other vehicles or pets you have are not regarded as household goods under this legislation.

Both partners are also entitled to an equal share of any money derived from any allowance made by either cohabitant for their joint household expenses and/or any property acquired out of that money.

However, this does not include the property used as your main sole residence that you lived in while cohabiting.

It is also now possible for a cohabitant to make a claim for financial provision after separation. With regard to your contribution to the relationship while your partner was unemployed, there is a possibility that an order for a capital could be made by the court on the basis that you have been financially disadvantaged. You can ask the court to look at the effect that your contribution had on your financial status when your relationship ended.

The court would consider factors such as the advantage derived by your partner from your contributions and the extent of any economic disadvantage suffered by you during that period.

In relation to applying for a financial award, there are various factors which the court will consider, including the duration of cohabitation and the nature of the relationship. In particular, a cohabitant can only claim an award if you were living together as if you were a married couple.

The court will also consider the financial arrangements of the couple during that period such as how bank accounts were held and administered.

It is very important to be aware that you only have a period of one year from when your relationship ended to apply to the court for an order.

Also, remember that the cost of taking the case to court may well outweigh any financial award which you may receive. You should always seek the advice of a specialist family lawyer.

&#149 Cath Karlin is a partner specialising in family law within the private client and financial services department of HBJ Gateley Wareing.

If you have a question you need answered, write to Jeff Salway, Personal Finance Editor, The Scotsman, 108 Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AS or e-mail: jsalway@scotsman.com.

This above is for general purposes only and is not tailored for individual use. It does not constitute legal, financial or investment advice on any particular matter and must not be treated as a substitute for specific advice. No action should be taken in reliance of the information given. The Scotsman Publications Ltd and HBJ Gateley Wareing accept no liability on the basis of this article.

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