The advice comes from Nikki Pickering and Mohammed Ahsan at Martin-Kaye Solicitors in Telford. Nikki specialises in family law and Ahsan is a litigation expert, and they said they have seen a real increase in the number of cases involving unmarried couples who were dealing with the breakdown of their relationship.
“The cases start with the unmarried couple seeking advice on what to do about the property they have shared and because it involves the breakdown of a relationship, they assume they need a family lawyer just as a married couple would,” said Nikki.
“But in fact this just isn’t the case – unmarried couples have far fewer rights over property and any disputes that cannot be resolved have to be dealt with by the civil courts rather than the matrimonial courts.
“I can offer general advice on the situation, but if court action becomes necessary, then I hand the case over to Ahsan as the court rules are completely different to the kind of courts I deal with.”
Ahsan said with the number of people choosing to live together on the rise, there had almost inevitably been an increase in the number of cases of relationships breaking down.
“We have seen a growing number of cases where Nikki has initially started them off, giving general advice and trying to negotiate a settlement, but court proceedings have become necessary. This is usually because the couple are unable to agree on how their shared property should be dealt with, and the only remaining option is to take the case to court.
“When an unmarried relationship breaks down, it is not as straightforward to deal with as a divorce, and civil proceedings can be extremely costly. But if a couple takes professional advice before they purchase a property together, court proceedings can be avoided if the relationship comes to an end.”
Both Nikki and Ahsan offer free interviews to couples whose relationships have broken down – Nikki deals with any issues involving children from the relationship and gives general advice, and Ahsan deals with any dispute over the family property.
“No-one wants to think about a relationship breaking down when they first get together, but by taking sensible steps at the start and putting proper agreements in place, if the worst does happen then things will be easier to deal with,” said Nikki.