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The law on relationship breakdown

This content applies to England & Wales

Overview of the legislation covering relationship breakdown issues.

For cohabiting couples experiencing a relationship breakdown where one is a sole owner, the relevant law is a combination of family law and property law. The different ways in which this legislation works is explained below.

Family law

The Family Law Act 1996 gives some cohabitants the right to apply for an occupation order of the family home. It also allows the court to order a temporary transfer of liabilities in respect of a family home owned solely by one of the partners.

For cohabitants with children, the Children Act 1989 may also allow one partner to apply for a transfer of ownership in the interests of the child.

Property law

Property law explains the legal position of sole owners and non-owning cohabitants in relation to their interest in the home. Using property law principles, courts can establish what interests are held in the home, but they cannot transfer or redistribute those interests. Of particular relevance to relationship breakdown is the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. Where family law applies, it can override property law rights.

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