Tony Roe (Partner, Boyes Turner) gives expert video advice on: Is there any help available when trying to deal with an informal marriage break up?; Do we have to go through a legal separation if we are not married?; How do we sort out who owns what if we have split up? and more...
Is there any help available when trying to deal with an informal marriage break up?
When cohabitants breakup, it is probably a much more complicated a process than it is for couples who are divorcing or separating when they've been married. There's a lot of myths about it and there is plenty of scope to go wrong. What one should do is consult a citizen's advice bureau for example, or alternatively, a specialist family law solicitor, preferably a member of Resolution. But you should check to see if you're going to be eligible for legal aid, whether or not that's something that they offer, or whether or not you qualify for it.
Do we have to go through a legal separation if we are not married?
Separation is a question of fact, whether you are cohabiting couples that are separating, or married couples separating. There's no process for it.
Will the father of my children be required to pay maintenance even if we weren't married?
A non-resident parent who was co-habiting will have a duty to pay maintenance fort child. That could be dealt with through the child support agency. However there is no [xx] for a former co-habitant to pay maintenance for the other former co-habitant. As far as children are concerned you may be able to make applications for capital orders under the Children Act of 1989.
Will I receive maintenance from my ex partner if I gave up my job to look after our children?
There's no provision for maintenance for a former cohabitant. The only provision is maintenance for the child, and that can be dealt through the child support agency, as it currently stands, if there can't be an agreement on it. It's always wise to actually check the child support agency website, where you can actually do calculations on there.
If we break up, who will have to move out of our current home?
The court can actually be asked to deal with occupation of a property, certainly, and while you are trying resolve matters about who owns what. That would be an application for an occupation order, enabling somebody to remain in the property, or excluding somebody from the property, and such an application can be made under the Family Law Act of 1996.
If I move out, do I have to carry on paying the mortgage?
If your name is on the mortgage, you've got a liability to the mortgage company, and that's an ongoing liability whether you're living there or not. But, what you should try to do is to come to some arrangement where you're not paying, but your former partner who remains there is paying your share.
If I move out, do I have to carry on paying the bills?
If your name is on the utility account, technically that's between you and the utility company. Often they will arrange for the names to be changed on the telephone account or the electricity bill and so on. Again, it's something that you should try to sort out as part of the overall arrangement, so there's no comeback for you.
After breaking up, how should we deal with our joint debts?
This is something that needs to be covered. You should try and arrange and negotiate who is going to deal with what.
After breaking up, how should we deal with our joint account?
Again, that's something which should become part of the negotiations. It might be easier if one of you takes that on, but again, by agreement and with the bank being informed. But, do watch out for one person drawing on a joint account, which may or may not, have an overdraft facility which means that you are, then, going to be liable just as much as they are for the overdraft.
How do we decide who will look after the children if we break up?
Try to agree what the arrangements are going to be: who's going to see them, to what extent, where are they going to live and so on. The more that you can agree the better it is. If you have areas of disagreement, perhaps you can mediate through a local mediation agency or solicit a mediator. If all else fails, applications can be made to the court under the Children Act 1989 for orders dealing with residence and contact. Residence means with whom a child lives and contact means the child seeing the parent.