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What happens to joint property when cohabitation ends?

Separation is never easy, but if you and your former partner own property together, the situation can be even more complicated. If you have been living with a partner, but you are not married, the legal term is ‘cohabitation’.

When cohabitees separate, they are not afforded the same protections in law as married couples who are getting divorced. This can be difficult, as, for many cohabiting couples, there is little difference in practical terms. In this article, we look at what happens to property when you separate from a partner you have been cohabiting with.

Do I need to move out of our home?

If you own your home and you are named on the title deeds, you have the right to stay in the property. However, if you are both named on the title deeds, you will need to decide between you who will eventually remain in your home, or if you wish to sell it.

What happens if we want to sell the property?

If you and your partner decide to sell your home, the process is reasonably straightforward. You can sell the property and divide the profits in any way which you agree after paying off any existing mortgage, costs and other liabilities relating to the property.

What if one partner wishes to stay in the property?

If one partner wants to stay in the property, then they may be able to buy their partner’s share in the property. You should seek advice from an experienced mortgage broker if you wish to do this as lenders will require evidence that you can afford the mortgage on your own. You will then need the assistance of a solicitor to transfer ownership.

What happens if we cannot agree on what is to happen to our home?

If you and your former partner are unable to come to an agreement about what is to happen to your home, you may wish to enter mediation to help you come to an agreement and we always recommend that this takes place with a view of reaching a swift and amicable agreement. If mediation is unsuccessful, you can ask the courts to decide what will happen to the property. Typically, the court will divide the property’s value between the two of you based on the shares you are entitled to.

 

When you purchased the property, you may have entered into a Declaration or Deed of Trust which outlines the proportions of the property owned by each of the joint owners. If there is no such document, then the presumption is usually that each joint owner owns 50% unless a different percentage of ownership can be proven.

What if we have children?

If you have children under the age of 18, it is possible to ask the court to delay selling the property until your youngest child turns 18.

If I move out, do I still need to pay the mortgage?

If both parties are named on the mortgage, you are both responsible for continuing to make mortgage payments – even when one party moves out.

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