As a family lawyer, I am rarely involved at the start of a relationship when all is going well and people are considering moving in together. Instead, my involvement arises at the point the relationship is breaking down or has broken down. For clients who are not married, one of the first things I often have to do is obtain from the land registry a copy of the transfer deed they signed when they purchased the property. Unfortunately, this is when many people have an unpleasant surprise when I explain that this document is going to be of paramount importance in determining how much of the property they are entitled to receive now they are separating.
In the wake of Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt’s split — which was reportedly fuelled by disagreement over differing parenting styles – I wonder to what extent this was a key factor in the breakdown of the relationship, or whether it is only now becoming a major issue as a result of the separation.
In January of this year, a heterosexual couple lost their court case in which they argued that opposite-sex couples are being subjected to discrimination as, unlike same-sex couples, they do not have the choice to enter into a civil partnership instead of marriage.
At present, same sex couples who wish to formalise their relationship and thereby obtain a legal status entitling them to financial protection and benefits, can choose between civil partnership or marriage. Heterosexual couples need to marry in order to obtain that same financial protection.
We often hear divorcing couples say they want a “clean break”. How many of them however, really understand what is meant legally by “a clean break”?
Having a clean break means that from a date specified in a court Order, neither party to the marriage will be able to make further financial claims against the other person. This means there can be no further claims for maintenance, lump sums, pension orders or for property.
Getting divorced quickly is often seen as a plus, but not if you fail to sort out the finances as this case study shows.