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Stephanie Walker from our dispute resolution department addresses cohabitation and engagement by responding to a Q&A about how property ownership can be affected as an unmarried couple.
Q: Cohabiting couples: What difference does being engaged make?
A: In simple terms, for couples who live together, being engaged can affect your rights of property ownership. It could mean that one of you is able to claim a larger share in your property. The person claiming the bigger share in the property must establish that they have made a substantial contribution towards the property, either in money or money’s worth.
Q: Are there time limits for making a claim?
A: Yes, a claim of this nature must be made within 3 years of the end of the engagement. It is therefore very important that the party seeks legal advice as soon as possible following the break up.
Q: Can I approach my former fiancé(e) about a claim after say, 2 and a half years?
A: In theory yes, it is possible to bring a claim within 3 years of the end of the engagement. However, it is always best to approach these things sooner rather than later. The longer the period of time between breaking off engagement and raising a claim, the less likely it is that the claim would be resolved outside of Court.
You and your ex-partner are required to comply with a court process involving the usual notices and documents to be served. Sufficient time therefore needs to be left to deal with this.
Q: Our engagement has ended; can I have the ring back?
A: Usually the engagement ring is considered an outright gift, so the person who received the ring does not have to give it back. As with all things in law, there are some instances where it is possible to force the return of the ring.
Q: Our wills gave everything to each other: what should I do now?
A: You should always update your will when separating from a partner, whether you are living together, engaged or married. Do not wait until you have divided everything up; you should make a new will as soon as you know there is no chance that you will get back together.
See our article about when to write a will
Q: We have a joint property but have now have separated: what should we do now?
A: Speak to a firm of regulated solicitors as soon as you can; you should seek advice about any potential claims and consider whether your ownership at the Land Registry needs to be immediately updated.
Q: What if we weren’t engaged?
A: Similar rules apply. It may be possible for you to claim a bigger share in the property, taking into account your contributions and the intentions of you and your partner during ownership. It isn’t straightforward, but professional advice will point you in the right direction.
We know the ins and outs of property claims, acting for both those wanting to make a claim and those who have received a claim from their ex-partner. Get in touch with our dispute resolution team to find out how we can help you.
The content of this post does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon. The content is subject to change and we accept no liability for individuals relying on the information within this article.