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Solutions not involving the courts

This content applies to England & Wales

Solutions to deciding who stays in the home in the long term that do not involve the courts.

It may be possible for the sole owner and the non-owning cohabitant to come to an agreement about long-term rights to the home without involving the courts, although the non-owning cohabitant is not in a very strong position unless s/he has a beneficial interest or there are children. The obvious advantage of reaching an agreement rather than using the courts is that it is likely to be quicker, cheaper and offer more flexibility.

Agreements

When there is a relationship breakdown, cohabiting couples can make any type of agreement concerning what will happen to their home. For sole owners and non-owning cohabitants, this is most likely to be the case where the non-owning cohabitant has a beneficial interest.

Existing agreements (trusts)

It may be the case that the couple made an agreement clarifying their intentions in the event of a relationship breakdown when they began their relationship or bought their home. This would normally be in the form of a written, signed declaration or statement or a formal trust deed prepared by a solicitor. It is possible for there to be a verbal agreement, although this will obviously be harder to prove in the event of a dispute. Examples of agreements might be for the property to be sold and the proceeds divided in specified shares, or for the non-owning cohabitant to be allowed to remain in the property with the children for a specified length of time.

If there is no such document, then it will be more difficult to claim long-term rights to the home. Nevertheless, it can be done if a beneficial interest can be established (see the page on Rights to occupy the home for more information about beneficial interest).

Family mediation

Family mediation is a way of helping families resolve disputes about children or financial matters away from the courts. It is a voluntary process where family members can meet safely in the presence of an impartial and independent family mediator to discuss disputes over finances or children. It does not aim to help people get back together, but to help them manage their future better.

For more information see Gov.uk – Money and property when a relationship ends.

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