- Unmarried Parents
Today we talk all about unmarried parents and what options they have if they separate. We are joined by our family law expert in Guildford Rachel Donald, Partner at Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP.
We discuss the legal rights for unmarried parents, financial support available, what happens to the family home, laws abroad and moving abroad.
Rachel Donald our family law expert in Guildford
Partner | Penningtons Manches Cooper LLP
Contact: [email protected]
Tel: 01483 411 476
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[00:01:32] Hello and welcome to my Bump to Baby Expert podcast, where we bring experts from all over the UK to answer your questions on everything pregnancy to preschool.
[00:01:54] Today we are talking all about the laws around unmarried parents and what the options are. If you separate for this podcast, we have invited on our family law expert in Guilford, Rachel Donald, a partner at Pennington’s Manches Cooper LLP, and she will be answering all our questions on this subject.
[00:02:18] I hope you enjoyed this episode.
[00:02:25] Hello everybody and welcome to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert podcast. Today we are talking all about unmarried parents and what your options are if you do separate for this episode, we have invited our expert partner at Pennington’s Manches Cooper, LLP, um, Rachel Donald, and she’s gonna join us and answer all of our questions around this subject.
[00:02:48] So, hello Rachel. How are.
[00:02:50] Rachel: Hi, Carla. I’m very well, thank you. How are you?
[00:02:53] Carla: I’m very well, thank you. Very well. Can you tell us a little bit more about you, Rachel?
[00:02:58] Rachel: Yeah, of course. Well, thank you for the intro. Um, I am, I’m a partner in our family team at our Guilford office of Pennington’s Manches Cooper. And I advise, um, couples who are separating or who are entering into relationships as well.
[00:03:16] Um, and we deal. All aspects of family law. So we, we deal with divorce and finance. Um, we also deal with rights for unmarried couples as well, and children law. So if there are any disputes arising around children, um, we can help resolve that as well. Um, and we do lots of work for, um, couples who are living in England, across England and Wales, but we also do quite a lot of international cases as well and can help people with, with that, who need help with the English.
[00:03:46] Carla: That’s brilliant. So I bet you’re very busy then. ,
[00:03:48] Rachel: Very busy .
[00:03:50] Carla: Yes. So in terms of, um, the unmarried, unmarried parents, I think this is a really important subject to touch on because I think more and more parents are, are unmarried these days and, um, when it does come to separating, it’s, it’s hard to know whether.
[00:04:05] What applies to you, you know, with the different, different situations. So I do think this, this podcast will be really useful to a lot of people. Um, so I’ll get started, um, with the questions. So firstly, Rachel, are the same legal rights available for unmarried parents as married parents?
[00:04:23] Rachel: Well, in, in short, no.
[00:04:26] Carla: Right?
[00:04:26] Rachel: Um, but it, it, it depends what aspect of law we are looking at. So, If we were looking at the law that relates to you as parents, so your legal rights and responsibilities towards your children, um, then as long as you are both on the birth certificate as the child’s biological parent, um, then you would automatically share parental responsibility over that child.
[00:04:53] Um, so from a point of view of spending time with a child or where the child lives or making. Legal decisions about that child’s life, like where they go to school, whether they should have medical treatment, what their religion should be, for example, Those major decisions then provided you both have parental responsibility.
[00:05:14] Which, as I say, you get automatically off if you’re on the birth certificate or for married parents, you would both automatically have it as well. Mm-hmm. , um, then those rights are the same. So from a responsibility and legal obligation towards your child’s perspective, um, then yes. Um, but if you are looking at financial rights, it’s totally different for unmarried couples as it is for married couples.
[00:05:37] And I this this is something that lots of parents, um, in my experience anyway, don’t realize when you’re entering into a relationship because, um, in other countries, um, quite often they recognise, um, unmarried couples rights and we have. We had something as well, a myth that was, um, rumoring, which is, you know, when, when you are called, um, the common law wife.
[00:06:01] That’s something that I’ve heard a phrase referred to quite a lot. Um, and that’s where you might automatically assume that if you’ve been with somebody for a long period of time, you have children together, then you automatically acquire the same rights or the same financial rights as married couples do.
[00:06:18] And that’s just not the case. In English law, it’s very, very different. Um, if you’re married, um, you get all sorts of rights against each other to protect you financially, and those sorts of rights and claims could be income claims against each other. So if you are financially dependent on your other half um, then you could get maintenance, ongoing maintenance and those sorts of claims. If you own a property together, even if it’s not held in your, so in, in your joint names, you could still have a share in that property. Um, you might have shared claims against the others’ pensions. Um, but for unmarried couples, it, it, it’s not the same at all.
[00:07:01] English law doesn’t actually recognise cohabitate, cohabiting couples when they separate. Um, so that is a real difference for them.
[00:07:10] Carla: Wow. Yes. Yeah, because a lot of people, I mean, you could have been living together years and years. I’ve got friends that have lived together for years and, you know, they’ve got children and I didn’t realize that, to be honest.
[00:07:22] Rachel: Yeah. It, it just, it it’s a, it’s, um, it’s something that, There’s quite a bit of debate going on at the moment about whether there should be reform in this area because it, it does leave some, some, some people in relationships, very, very vulnerable. Um, and there’s also this, this assumption that the law will protect you.
[00:07:43] Um, and actually for a lot of cohabiting couples, that’s not always the case. So it’s something to be aware of. , if you are living together, um, you know, it, it’s something that you really need to to think about. Is there, is there some protection that you should be putting in place from a legal perspective to make sure, um, you get a fair outcome If you do separate in the future.
[00:08:03] Carla: Would, a will, um, be something that you could do that? Could, could you use that or would you.
[00:08:09] Rachel: So a will, a will is, is, is something which only governs what happens if one of you dies. So,
[00:08:14] Carla: Right.
[00:08:15] Rachel: That is, that’s absolutely something that you can put in place to protect you in the event. Um, that one party’s going to die. So that’s something that you should. I mean, you, you, you, you should have in place.
[00:08:26] Carla: Mm-hmm.
[00:08:27] Rachel: Um, particularly if there’s, if there’s property and you want to leave that property to your behalf or to the child, to the children, um, because of course it wouldn’t be automatic if you’re not married. So that’s something to think about as well. But that would only protect you. on the death of one of you. It wouldn’t protect you if you, your relationship was to break down.
[00:08:48] Carla: Yes, of course. Yes. I understand what you mean. So with that then, obviously for couples that have, uh, have no intention of getting married, what, what would they do then, if that’s the case? Would they, would they speak to you and then you’d be able to, to create something or?
[00:09:05] Rachel: Yes so what unmarried couples can do is a very, a very common situation that, that I see is where a house has been bought together and there’s been assumptions made about how they own that property rather than actually spelling it out. So for example, um, if you’ve bought a house together, And you’ve made unequal contributions to it.
[00:09:32] Maybe, um, you’ve had a gift from parents and that’s gone in, um, and the other parties maybe raised a mortgage to buy the property. Um, you might have assumed that you would automatically own it. In the way, in the, in, in the percentage of which your contributions have have been made. But that’s not necessarily the case.
[00:09:55] Um, you can own a property in one of two ways. You can own it as joint tenants. And that means essentially you own it together as one. Um, and you own it equally. Yeah. Or you can, you can purchase it as tenants in common. And that’s where you. Divide, um, and have unequal shares if you want to. But most couples will, especially when they’re moving in together in the cohabiting together and they’re in a committed relationship, um, when they get to that point of purchasing a property and they go and see a conveyer, for example, they might just say, Well, we wanna own it jointly.
[00:10:29] It’s gonna be our home together. And not really think about what those percentage splits would be. Um, so if you do, um, have an unequal contribution to purchasing a property, then. You can very easily define that when you purchase it by having something called a declaration of trust, and that would simply say, Look, we, I own 10% and the other party owns 90%.
[00:10:57] If that’s how you want it to be reflected. In the same if you are contributing unequally. But actually you do want to have an equal share in that property and you want to own it together as well. And then you can confirm that as well in the Declaration of Trust. So you could say, look, even though our contributions are unequal, we want to own it. Own it together. So just , I would say have that conversation. When you’re purchasing a home together, what is your intention? How do you want, how would you want to deal with it If things were to go wrong and you were to separate in the future, I know it’s a bit of a gloomy conversation to have.
[00:11:33] But you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache in the long run to have that conversation upfront. You know, my parents have put in X or, you know, I’ve, I’ve got a mortgage and I, I’m intending to get this out of it. Just define it when you, um, when you buy the property and it’ll save you a lot of hassle. And, um, aggravation as well and cost potentially if you do separate in the future.
[00:11:56] Um, another document that can sometimes really help, um, couples who are cohabiting, maybe if there are children involved, um, or if you’re paying school fees or if you have, um, other aspects that may complicate finances is some couples will enter into a cohabitation agreement, which will really clearly set out all of those points I’ve just discussed, but you can say more as well.
[00:12:19] So, If somebody’s gonna make an unequal contribution to paying the mortgage every month, you can specify what that is and it might factor in a bit of protection there as well. So a cohabitation agreement is, it’s a bit like a contract between the two of you, and I appreciate they’re not particularly romantic documents to enter into.
[00:12:39] Um, but it can really save disputes happening if you do separate and protect your position in the future. So it’s really something to, to think about entering into. If you, maybe you’ve got property and you own it yourself outright, and actually your intention is that you don’t want your other half to have a claim on that property. You would want actually, if you separated it to be free from claim, you could have a cohabitation agreement that would set that out.
[00:13:08] Carla: That’s great. That’s really, really great advice. Um, I think anyone going into a relationship, you don’t go into it thinking it’s gonna end, and you certainly don’t buy a house together thinking it’s gonna end, but you know, it does happen.
[00:13:20] So it’s really important to think about that. Um, you know, think about protecting yourself and not just protecting yourself, protecting the other person as well, you know, and, and,
[00:13:29] Rachel: Exactly.
[00:13:30] Carla: That’s it. And, and that’s the way you, you can bring up the conversation. It’s not just from a self, you know, a selfish point of view. It’s, it’s to protect both of you. Um, so yeah,
[00:13:39] Rachel: And I think it’s just being aware as well that, uh, aware of all these things. Um, what I always find really worrying is because, you know, I often help people when they haven’t got any protection in place and they’re in a crisis because they haven’t been able to agree things and that they’ve come to me because, They’ve, they’ve maybe thought they had an interest in a property, and then it turns out they don’t.
[00:14:03] And it’s what, what do you do at that stage? Um, that can be really costly, really stressful. And also if you do have children together, it can create more hostility than is needed. So if you do have these discussions right at the outset, um, I like to think that it can really help you. Sort of bolster that long term relationship if things do go wrong in the future.
[00:14:26] And it also means, you know, you both know where you stand right from the outset, which can be quite comforting during the relationship as well.
[00:14:33] Carla: Definitely, definitely. Now, Rachel, you may have answered some of these questions that I’ve got
[00:14:38] Rachel: That’s right.
[00:14:38] Carla: But I just wanna make sure that we’ve covered everything. Um, but the other question I’ve got is, mm-hmm. If, unmarried parents do separate, can they apply for any financial support?
[00:14:50] Rachel: Yes, they can. And, and it’s probably important for me to make a distinction between couples that have children together and don’t have children together.
[00:14:57] Carla: Mm-hmm.
[00:14:58] Rachel: because, um, if you, um, if you don’t have children together and you’re cohabiting together, you’re quite limited to claims around the property. And that’s pretty much it, um, but where, where you have children together, there are, there are some additional things that you could do. So, If you, if you separate, you have children. If you are the, if you are the main, the main carer, I mean, appreciate, there might be a shared care arrangement. But if you are a parent who, it’s usually the one who is in receipt of child benefit, actually, um, you can apply automatically for child maintenance on behalf of, of, of that child from the other parent. So if you do find yourself all of a sudden having separated, then a way to get some immediate income from that other parent if they’re not giving anything to you voluntarily. Be to apply to, uh, for child maintenance, which you can do from the Child Maintenance service.
[00:15:54] Um, and there’s also a really helpful calculator online. If you Google a child maintenance service calculator, online calculator, it comes up and, um, you can put in your other, the other parent’s gross income and information about, for example, how often they might see the child overnight, what their pension contributions are, what their gross income is, how many children there are.
[00:16:17] That website will calculate what they should be paying to. Every month and most pay parents can enter into a direct agreement with the other by just using that calculator because it’s a set standard formula. Um, and it applies to everybody. Um, if you get some problems with that, and if the other parent is not, um, perhaps they’re not open to paying that, that money or they’re not, they’re not giving you what they should be paying you under the calculator, you can actually apply to the Child Maintenance Service and they’ll do an assessment and they’ll recover that, that money for you as.
[00:16:51] So that’s a really good, um, source and resource to know is there. So if you, if you do need maintenance, then you can access the child maintenance service to help. So that, that’s helpful.
[00:17:03] Carla: It is. I was gonna ask something actually that came up in, in just then the thought, it, it, what happens if parents equally have the child 50 50? Is it, then there’s no maintenance or how does that work?
[00:17:16] Rachel: Well, sometimes it can net off completely, equally, but usually, um, If, if being technical about it with the child maintenance, it depends on who’s getting child benefit. So if you are the parent in receipt of child benefit, um, then you automatically qualify as being the parent with care.
[00:17:34] And if you are on almost shared, it’s really actually hard to share a week because the seven days of the week, and usually you find somebody has three days, one week, four days, the next, But if you are running on. Equal time. Then there’s usually just a very large deduction applied to the maintenance assessment.
[00:17:51] So the idea is that if there’s a financially stronger parent, then they would be paying some maintenance to the other. Um, so that it sort of levels out the income a little bit across the families so that they’re getting some support. But there are some circumstances where parents do just say, Look, we’re earning roughly the same and we are having the children for exactly half the week or one week on, one week off. And in those circumstances then, you know, there’s no need for child maintenance to change hands. Um, but maintenance is really important for those parents where there’s a discrepancy between income and that money’s really needed to help meet the ongoing cost of the child every week.
[00:18:33] Carla: Mm. Yeah. Goodness. It’s a lot to think about, isn’t there? Really?
[00:18:37] Rachel: There’s, there’s a lot to think about and I. , I should say, because there is, that child maintenance calculation only applies if you have a parent who’s earning a growth income of less than 156,000 pounds per annum. Um, which it, so it is, it is for high earners.
[00:18:57] If you go, if you go over and above that mm-hmm. , um, then it, it does give you the opportunity to ask um, the family courts to top you up. So if you are in a , in a relationship breakdown and the other parent has a very high income, then you’ll only be able to get a child maintenance assessment on income up to 156,000 pounds a year.
[00:19:22] So it’s worth bearing that in mind. If you’re very, if you’re fortunate enough to have somebody who’s earning more than that, then you may be able to get a top up from that as well. So there is options there. Mm-hmm. , and that’s, that’s all under something called Schedule 1 of the Children Act.
[00:19:38] Carla: Okay.
[00:19:38] Rachel: Which is, um, it, it, it gives rise for some parents to ask the other parent to give them a bit more help, um, with, um, making sure the standard of living for that child is, um, Is the same as in both households.
[00:19:56] Um, so there are other claims you can make under Schedule one as well, over and above those top up orders for income if there’s a huge disparity between you and the other parent. And quite often these cases are described as being, um, you know, ones where you have a, a parent who’s got a, a very, very high standard of living, and the other parent, um, hasn’t.
[00:20:22] So from very different walks of life, if you do find yourself in that situation, and for example, you can’t purchase a home with your own financial resources, but the child’s going to the other parent’s home, which is, you know, vastly, um, of higher quality than yours. In some circumstances, you can ask for a lump sum to help you purchase a home that is more equivalent to theirs. So it’s that that’s in the sort of exceptional cases where you have a huge disparity between the two parents. And the idea is it balances up the standard of living between the child’s two homes when they’re going between the two.
[00:21:00] Carla: Yeah, because you, you can imagine, I mean, a child that’s got everything in one house and then they’re going to another house where they might not have have as much, you know, that can be, they might then say, Oh, well I want to go to the other house all the time. So it’s just, I suppose it’s just making it a bit more fair, isn’t it?
[00:21:17] Rachel: Exactly. If you’ve got one parent living in, you know, a five bedroom detached house, and the other parent. In a council house, for example. Um, then you might want to think about whether you have got a claim against that other parent. I mean, they would have to be able to afford to fund it, and that’s something that would have to be looked and examined. But if they could, then that’s potentially a claim that, that you could have against the other parent.
[00:21:42] Carla: Right. Okay. Um, Rachel, while, while we’re on this subject, could I just, um, ask, so if, if you’ve got, I hope I don’t throw you off here, but if you
[00:21:51] Rachel: No, please, it’s fine.
[00:21:52] Carla: If you’ve got unmarried parents and they separate, can a parent, say for example, a mother or a father say to the other parent, No, you can’t have the child, or, you know, overnight or anything.
[00:22:04] What, what is the law with that? Does it automatically the mother to decide how long the father gets, or.
[00:22:10] Rachel: Well, no. It comes back. I suppose this point comes, That’s a really good question because I, I think that’s another, this is another point of awareness that people just don’t know when they separate the, all of a sudden launched into all of these decisions, and actually it’s quite hard to understand what your legal position is when you first separate, provided you’ve, you’ve both got parental responsibility, which most people do find they have because most, most of the time both parents are on the birth certificate.
[00:22:37] Then there shouldn’t be an imbalance between parents in terms of, you know, who, who has the greater decision over the other parent? Um, the law doesn’t have say, an automatic, um, bias towards mum to say, Well, you can make that decision. Um, what the law says is, well, what’s in the best interest of the child? And if you’ve been, um, a stay at home mum, for example, and the kids have been with you and maybe dad’s been dad’s been working, then you know, you, you might find that actually.
[00:23:11] It might not make sense in that situation for there to all of a sudden overnight be a change from mum being primary carer all week to there being, you know, for example, a one week on one week off type arrangement across mum and dad’s home, because that might be very disruptive, particularly if the kids are very young.
[00:23:31] So that completely depends on the circumstances. In contrast it would be exactly the same if you had a stay at home dad and you know, dad was looking after the children, um, on more of a full-time basis and he was taking that, that role and mum was out working. Again, you would try and keep the status quo as much as you can, and, um, maintain the environment that the children are used to on separation.
[00:23:57] Both parents are able to have an input as to what they think the right arrangements for those children are, and it’s always governed by what’s in the best interest of the child. Um, quite often parents disagree over that, over what that will be, um, but. If you ever have a problem with it, and if you feel that your, the other parent is not allowing you to see your children as much as you would like, or if you are feeling pressured to give more time than you think is right for your children to the other parent, then.
[00:24:30] You really should get some, some legal advice at that point. That’s the time to speak to a lawyer and say, look, this is my circumstances. What do you think? Because, you know, we deal with lots of cases and we take lots of cases to court and we understand how the courts would approach these sorts of, um, situations.
[00:24:48] So we could give you insight but also, . If you can’t agree, then the outcome would be to, to make an application to court and they can decide what’s in the best interest of the children and make child arrangement orders. Um, that would say, look, the children are to stay with mum, three nights a week and dad four nights a week or whatever, whatever it is that’s appropriate for that family.
[00:25:12] Carla: Yeah, that’s brilliant because I think sometimes, especially, you know, with TV the way it is and everything, you can automatically think, Oh well, you know, if I’m a dad I might not get a say or you know, you just don’t know do you. So that’s really, really useful, um, information. So thank you so much for.
[00:25:29] Rachel: No problem.
[00:25:30] Carla: So, um, with, um, unmarried couples living in a house today and that’s their family home, is it assume that they own the house jointly? I know we’ve covered this a little bit, but what would happen to the house if they split up as well?
[00:25:46] Rachel: Yeah. So this is always a really, this is always a really tricky one because, um, when you, when you own a house together jointly, um, and you all of a sudden split up, there’s always this conflict of right, who’s gonna stay in the house and who’s gonna go?
[00:26:02] And quite often that there isn’t, there isn’t a, a right answer to that question if you are in conflict about that. It’s important to, there’s lots of avenues actually you can take to, to get help with resolving this. There’s mediation that you can use as a way of discussing it between yourself with the support of a mediator, or you can speak to a solicitor who’ll be able to help you with it.
[00:26:26] Um, but quite often that comes down. Well, what are we gonna do? Is the house going to be sold? If it’s gonna be sold, how are the proceeds gonna be split? Who’s gonna pay the mortgage if somebody is moving out? Um, you know, are you both gonna continue to pay the mortgage or, you know, is somebody gonna fund all of it while the other moves out?
[00:26:45] If so, what are you gonna do about the repayment element of that mortgage? For example, if you’re paying that from the date that they, they move out, what happens if a new partner moves in, um, before you know you’ve been able to resolve and sell the house, or maybe transfer the house across? Um, What I would say is it’s never a good idea to left, to leave things unresolved.
[00:27:07] So if you are a joint owner of a property and say you’ve moved out because you’ve left a relationship, um, it’s really worth you speaking to a solicitor to work out actually, how are you gonna unlock your interest from that house? Are you, you, you could force a sale if you need to, because you might have a situation where somebody’s staying in the house and say, Well, sorry, I’m not selling it. I’m here. Um, what are you gonna do about it? You can force a sale if you need to. Um, that’s something that as a joint owner you can do. But equally it might be more appropriate if the other person can afford to do it. They might buy your interest out and make sure if they do that, they can take you off the mortgage as well, because you want to, you know, you want to be completely separate, separated from that property if that’s what you’re going to do.
[00:27:59] Um, so it’s really important to think about joint ownership. If the relationship does break, does break down and you don’t just leave it all un resolved because, um, problems can crop up along the way. Um, and it’s always better, as I say, to have financial security and financial certainty as well. So you know where you stand and you know how you’re gonna move forward.
[00:28:21] Carla: Definitely, um, gosh, it’s, it is, there’s so many different circumstances, isn’t there, out there?
[00:28:26] Rachel: Yeah.
[00:28:27] Carla: Um, goodness. Yeah. So, so, um, with, with that then, Rachel, could you just explain a little bit more mm-hmm. , I know we’ve already touched on it, um, a little bit, but how unmarried couples can protect their position again.
[00:28:41] Rachel: Yeah, of course. Um, I think the, the, the, the, the best thing that you can do if you, if you’re not married, just using an example. And it works both ways. Maybe you’ve moved in to your partner’s house and, um, you’re paying something towards the mortgage or your paying, you are contributing each month towards the mortgage.
[00:29:06] You, you might assume , that, that, that will give you an interest in that property. Um, and, and that will, that will mean that if you did separate, you would be able to get something back. Maybe you’d get your mortgage payments back. But that’s not always the case. So it’s, it’s in that situation, having a document to set out exactly what your both your intentions are would help. And you can do that by entering into a cohabitation agreement. So if, for example, you want to get whatever you’ve paid in back, um, don’t just assume that the law will do that. If that’s what you and your partner want to do, then make sure you’ve got that recorded in a document some somewhere.
[00:29:50] Um, because unless you’ve got it recorded in a document somewhere. It’s unlikely to reflect what the legal position is because as I say, in England and Wales, we don’t have special rules for cohabitation, for cohabits. Um, if you own a property together, um, and you own it equally, then that will be the starting point.
[00:30:11] That will be the presumption. If one of you owns a property and the other isn’t on the title, um, the starting point is that you don’t have an interest in that property. Um, whether you’ve been together for a year, five years, 10 years, and whether you have two children together or three children together, you know, it makes no difference.
[00:30:29] Um, so if that’s something that you, um, if you are in that situation at the moment and let’s say. You’re living together. You’re not on the title, but you’re assuming that you’ve got an interest in that property, then you may wanna have that conversation and say, look what will happen if. If, if things go wrong, what’s your understanding?
[00:30:51] What’s my understanding? And have that conversation. I appreciate that might be difficult and it might trigger some difficult conversations. Um, but ultimately you need to both be on the same page and make sure you’re protected if the relationship breaks down. And that’s particularly the case if you are paying money over, um, You might not necessarily get that back.
[00:31:15] That might be considered as being occupational rent and therefore, you know, not something that you could recoup if that relationship breaks down.
[00:31:22] Carla: Goodness. Yeah. If, if, um, I was just thinking about couples that, you know, they’re just about getting by with it, with the, you know, electricity bills and everything like that. Yeah, Yeah. And if, if you end up breaking up and you. One person needs to move out, but they don’t have enough money to pay the bills as it is. That’s gonna be a real, really tricky situation, isn’t it? Because where, Where can the other person go? I mean,
[00:31:45] Rachel: It’s really, really difficult and I think that is. Making a household go from being a single household to two households when there’s, when you’re very, very limited in terms of finances anyway, is, is really, really difficult. Um, and obviously if you do separate, the first thing that you should be doing is seeing if there are any additional benefits that you can get.
[00:32:10] Because if you all of a sudden go from being, um, in a relationship to no longer in a relationship, then you can apply for things like council tax relief where you could get 25% off your council tax. Um, you might be eligible for enhanced benefits if you’ve gone from being in a relationship to, um, being separated.
[00:32:31] That might give you a bit of enhanced benefits as well. Maybe you weren’t eligible for child benefit before because your other half was over the threshold. Um, that’s something to consider as well. So, It’s about pooling as much as you can together to see, you know, income from all sources. But absolutely, it’s gonna put a lot of pressure on a lot of couples.
[00:32:52] Um, sometimes things that, a, a situation where that, that parents can agree sometimes, particularly where there are children involved, is if you own a house together. And you’ve both got money in that house, but if one parent was to take their their money out, it, it still wouldn’t be enough to purchase a home equivalent to the one you’ve got.
[00:33:13] Some parents agree, look, you stay in the house with the kids. I can’t see any other way of it working, but I will wait for my share for when the kids turn, you know, get older or when you’ve got back into full-time work. And those sorts of arrangements can be a lifeline really, to parents who actually need to keep that previous family home in place for the benefit of the children.
[00:33:36] Because otherwise, you know, there just wouldn’t be enough to unlock two houses that can. An option for people, and it means you do have to wait for your money. Um, but at least you’re retaining your interest in the house and it’s coming back to you at a point where, you know, the children are, are, are, let’s say they reach the age of, of 13 or 16.
[00:33:56] Or in those sorts of arrangements, sometimes you can have it whereby you get your money out. Maybe if a new partner moves in or a new partner comes on the scene, um, quite often new partners can trigger disputes that you weren’t expecting beforehand because it can change the dynamic. So that’s another option for people to think about if you are in that situation.
[00:34:16] Carla: Yeah, that, that’s a great option. I suppose when you’re in this situation, if it’s very raw and you know, not both parties want it, that’s when you know these kind of conversations, it’s quite hard to have them, isn’t it? Cause if someone’s angry or hurt or upset, then you know, it, it’s,
[00:34:34] Rachel: it’s, it’s really hard to, it’s, it’s, it’s really hard to have them and actually, I think a lot of time we go into things with lots of assumptions and um, actually it’s far better to just have the conversation and get some clarity when you go into, into the relationship into buying a property together, just to make sure you both understand exactly what would happen, you know, if, if, if your relationship were to break down, um, and it, it, it can just give you that clarity that, and, and security that, that you’ll need. But yeah, the problem is leaving it until relationship breakdown means that usually, you know, you’ve got, you’ve got enough on your plate as it is.
[00:35:14] Relationship breakdown is incredibly difficult emotionally, but factoring, trying to, trying to resolve the finances and if you don’t agree on the finances can be. Incredibly difficult and um, it can be very costly as well from a legal side if you can’t agree on things.
[00:35:31] Carla: So, yeah. I mean, I understand what you’re saying. It’s much easier to have the conversation
[00:35:35] Rachel: Yeah.
[00:35:35] Carla: Right at the beginning of the relationship.
[00:35:37] Rachel: Yeah.
[00:35:38] Carla: Protect yourselves than, you know, wait until. You know, the end and
[00:35:43] Rachel: Yeah.
[00:35:44] Carla: Yeah, I can.
[00:35:44] Rachel: Exactly.
[00:35:45] Carla: And it, it’s, it’s, it really does make sense that what you’ve said. So, um, Rachel, are there any plans to change the law in the UK around unmarried couples then?
[00:35:55] Rachel: Well, they are, the government are work. There is a working paper being considered at the moment. Um, we have, I’m a member of a, a, a large organisation called Resolution who are, um, it’s essentially a group of family solicitors across the country. Um, and we’re all promoting, um, amicable breakdowns so that, you know, it’s not. Trying to minimise contact, um, conflict, minimise costs, but also highlight any areas of family law that need reform. Um, and actually it was Resolution who were pivotal in bringing no fault divorce Um, in earlier this year. They are also pushing to just have unmarried couples legal position recognised by the law, um, and acknowledge the problems that there are and how vulnerable some people are in this situation.
[00:36:47] So I think. There are plans to review the law and look at it. Um, but it’s unlikely to happen in sort of next year or in the near future because I think the government have probably have enough on their plate at the moment with other things. So it’s getting kicked back, but I really hope that it is something that will be looked at and considered because, um, or even just more awareness raised about it, because I think there are a lot of families in the UK that, that don’t fully appreciate what their circumstances would be if the relationship that they were in were to break down.
[00:37:22] Um, and quite often by the time it’s much, the, the relationship breaks down. It, it, it, it can be too late to sort them out because you know it’s already happened and you’re already vulnerable. Um, so I really hope there’s gonna be some change in the future, but I think if anything happens, it’s not gonna be in the immediate future.
[00:37:39] Carla: Which is why you need to really look at this now, see this podcast as a, as a sign to have this conversation. But yeah, no, I, I understand completely what you’ve said. I mean, um, another question I had is, what happens if you move abroad? Are, are the laws different from married couples in different countries?
[00:37:57] Rachel: Uh, yes. The, the, the laws are different all over the world. So it completely depends where you move to. Um, some countries do recognise, um, cohabiting couples, um, and do give them some enhanced rights. For example, Australia, um, is a jurisdiction that does have defacto relationships. So that’s, that, that’s an example of a country. If you were to sort of move to, to Australia, um, you might find yourself all of a sudden having some legal rights there.
[00:38:27] I think what’s important is if you are a family and you, um, you’re not married and you are moving to another jurisdiction. If you’ve got any concerns about property that you own together or whether your financial position will be protected, um, then just get some advice. You’re better off getting advice.
[00:38:45] Um, you can get it from the English solicitor, but they’ll only be able to advise you on the English law. Um, get it from the, from a family solicitor in the jurisdiction that you’re going to, and just make sure you understand. That your position is protected and if you are buying properties together abroad, that you understand what the implications are there so that you’re fully protected and you’re fully aware of what your situation.
[00:39:07] Carla: That’s great. And another question around moving, um, Rachel, if, if an unmarried couple, the family, you know, they, they broke, broke down, um, what, what would happen? Could, could one of the parents move one of the child children away from the other parent? Or is this all to be discussed?
[00:39:27] Rachel: Well, they could, they could. And if, but if they, if they did that, um, they may find themselves in, in real difficulty. If that move’s not agreed by the other parent. So this again comes back to this concept of parental responsibility because, for example, if, if you wanted to move, let’s just use an example.
[00:39:52] Say you’re living in, in London and actually your relationship breaks down and you want to move to Manchester. Um, if that involved taking your children out of their current school, for example, and moving them up to Manchester. You would need to have the other parents, both parents with parental responsibility, would need to consent to where the children go to school.
[00:40:12] You, you’d have to get the other parents consent to move. Quite often when there isn’t, because when people separate, there’s no order in place. You’re just working on the trust of the other parent at the outset. If you move and um, maybe you decide to move and you haven’t got the consent of the other parent, um, they could make an application to have that child returned.
[00:40:37] And if you take that step without agreeing at first, that can sometimes go against you. So tactically, it’s not always a sensible move to do anything actually without speaking to the other parent first, because they do share this parental responsibility. Um, and that’s something that’s taken very seriously by the court.
[00:40:56] So it may get you a short term outcome, but the long term impact might not be what you had anticipated if you were to do that. Um, on the flip side, if you, if you are a parent and your parent had and the other parent has taken your child elsewhere, um, without your consent, then you, you need to seek urgent advice.
[00:41:17] Don’t wait for things to get better. Speak to a solicitor as soon as you can because, um, you really need to be acting as quickly as possible to try and get some protective orders in place to bring that child back. For example, if they have been moved to a different part of the country. If we’re talking internationally then that’s got a slightly different complex on it because if you share parental responsibility, um, then you, you need to obtain the consent of the other parent, take the child out of the jurisdiction. And that applies to taking the child to Scotland, taking the child Australia, taking the child to France. It can be any other jurisdiction other than England and Wales.
[00:41:57] Carla: Is that even on holiday for unmarried couples?
[00:42:00] Rachel: That is even on holiday, and that, that’s the same for married and unmarried couples. It’s, it comes back to parental responsibility. It, it’s technically child abduction to do it without it. So I would say, you probably are getting informal consent. You might be doing it by just having a conversation, because if you’ve got an informal agreement together and you’re going on holiday the next week, you’ll probably say to your ex, um, you know, I’m going to Spain next week, and they won’t raise an issue with it. But if you are in high conflict and, um, there are disputes about how long the child should stay with the other, then it’s really important.
[00:42:36] Then you get consent. If you are, if you’re in a really volatile relationship. And maybe you are tempted to flee to a country that perhaps you’re from originally, or maybe you’ve got family members there, then I would say it’s really important to seek the other parents’ consent if, um, you’re going to take the children out of the jurisdiction, because that would be child abduction.
[00:43:01] And that can, as I say, have consequences long term because there are measures to get children returned in those circumstances. So, It’s very serious talking about children moving really within the uk, but particularly outside of the uk. You need to get consent and I would say it’s always a good idea to speak to a family law solicitor about that if you are considering moving because, um, the steps you take at that early stage can be really, really crucial in terms of the outcome. If you’d ever did need to go to court because of it.
[00:43:33] Carla: Right. That’s brilliant. Gosh, you’ve given us so much information, Rachel. I’m so sorry for all my overload.
[00:43:40] Rachel: No, it’s alright.
[00:43:41] Carla: I just, it’s, it’s funny because there’s so many different kind of situations that you could land yourself in, you know? With, with this. I mean, there’s just so many different situations I’m sure are going on all over the place, and it’s very, very sad. Um, it really is. But Rachel, then can you, can you share a bit more about, obviously we know what you can help with, but can you share a bit more about what your company helps with and also how people can reach you directly, if that’s okay?
[00:44:11] Rachel: Yes, of course. Well, I, I mean, I’m delighted to help anyone with, um, any family law issues.
[00:44:19] I’m based in Guilford. Um, you can probably hear from my accent. I’m originally from the Northeast, so I still do do some cases, um, where, you know, I’ve got, I’ve got a history up there, but we, we take instructions from, from, from anywhere really. Um, and, um, if you did wanna have a more local based solicitor then we do have family, family teams not only in Guilford. We have, um, a family team based in London where we’ve got our city practice. Um, we’ve also got an office in Oxford, um, Reading, Basingstoke. We’ve got international offices as well, but we’ve just opened in Birmingham as well. So really we can, we can, we can help anyone with family law related, um, aspects.
[00:45:01] But I’m really fortunate to be part of our firm because we do a whole host of other areas of law. So quite often, um, where we have a family law issue, it crosses over with other issues like I’ve just touched upon today. I. For example, property law kicks in. Um, and being part of a firm like Pennington’s Manches Cooper, we’ve not only got a, a family team, we’ve got an amazing property team who are there to support those cases.
[00:45:30] So we can, we quite often will run matters together and I’ve got the expertise from that area as well. We also do, um, private clients, so we’ve got, um, a team that can help with. Drafting a will or if you wanted a trust prepared, then that’s something that we could help with. Purchases of homes, we’ve got a real estate team, um, that can help you with that as well.
[00:45:52] If you’re selling and purchasing a home, and as I say, quite often I will work in conjunction with them because if there’s a couple who are buying a home together and say, Look, from a family law perspective, are you able to help? They might draft a cohabitation agreement, alongside my colleagues who are dealing with the purchase of that property.
[00:46:09] Um, so I’m really lucky to be part of a multidisciplinary firm and we can, we can offer you services on, on all those levels. But if you did want to find out more about the firm, um, you can go to our website, which is www.penningtonslaw.com. Um, or if you wanted to contact me directly, then please feel free to email me.
[00:46:29] Um, my email address is [email protected] and if you google Rachel Donald, I’ll come up as a, as a solicitor. And of course, I’m also listed, um, on the My Bump 2 Baby website as well.
[00:46:42] Carla: That’s brilliant. Rachel. Rachel, you’ve been amazing and thank you so much for answering all of my questions as they sprung into my mind.
[00:46:50] Rachel: That’s no problem. It’s a pleasure.
[00:46:52] Carla: That’s brilliant. Oh, thanks so much, Rachel, for joining us, and we’ll put all Rachel’s links at the bottom of this podcast so you can contact her directly from.
[00:47:01] Thank you so much for listening to My Bump 2 Baby’s Expert podcast. If you are struggling with any family law issues or you need any advice, you can find your local family law solicitor in our directory.
[00:47:15] Or if you would like to contact Rachel Donald directly, her details are at the bottom of this podcast.
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