Ask the Solicitor is a new regular column for Altrincham Today from Slater Heelis, a firm of solicitors with offices in Timperley, Sale and Manchester. This week: Helen Miller, Associate Solicitor in the family department, answers some common questions asked by separating couples.
Q I have been living with my commonlaw wife for about 20 years in our house, which is in my name. We have two kids who are at high school and I work full time, she works part time. I’ve found out that she is having an affair and we are going to separate. Where do I start and what do I need to pay? She tells me she wants half my pension and half my wages!
A Interesting question. There is a common misconception, probably due to the TV, that “commonlaw” husbands/wives exist. There has been no such thing since 1753 and as such there is no financial provision available on separation, like there is if you were married. There can be no claim against your pension or your income, except for child maintenance. As the house is in your name alone it is for your partner to demonstrate that she has a legal interest in the house, which involves a very complex area of law and you should take early advice from a solicitor.
Q My mum and dad gave me £30k to help with buying a house with my partner, as we couldn’t afford to buy it without their help. We each put £10k in each as well. We have now split up and we are going to sell the house, which is in our joint names. I’ve asked that my mum and dad are re-paid their £30k but my ex is refusing. What can I do?
A Unless the £30k has been protected by way of a deed of trust or perhaps a legal charge (like a mortgage) then it would appear that, unless your parents take action to issue legal proceedings, that they have no protection for the money to be returned to them. You should have been advised when you were buying the house to protect the funds, or had the opportunity of doing so. The original file would need to be looked at to establish the facts. The money could be lost.
Q My husband has a really large pension, what am I entitled to?
A Depending on the length of your marriage, your husband’s pension would be regarded as a matrimonial asset. The court has the power to make a Pension Sharing Order which could provide you with equality of pension rights or alternatively the court can deal with a pension by way of a “set-off” whereby instead of receiving a share in his pension you take a greater share in other capital assets. Don’t forget that the court will not just consider your husband’s large pension. Any other smaller pensions of either of you will be considered matrimonial assets and be taken into account. That includes your state pensions and additional state pensions. Remember that pensions are only one aspect of a matrimonial settlement that has to be dealt with.