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In today's modern society, a growing number of couples in both heterosexual and same sex relationships, choose to live together, outside of marriage or civil partnership.

A legal problem can occur when relationships breakdown and there is a need to separate. When there are financial considerations and a dispute that cannot be settled amicably, legislation provided under the Matrimonial Act of 1973 and the Civil Partnerships Act of 2004 does not apply.

Furthermore there is a general misconception that such a thing exists as a "Common law wife" or a "Common law husband". There are no automatic rights at all. Entitlement is not automatically granted to either party. This is neither determined by the provider of greater financial means. There is therefore a rather grey area of law that is open to interpretation.

Where property is involved, couples will need to turn to TOLATA (Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees act 1996). Under Section 14, applications can be made to declare an individual's interest in a property or to seek an Order of sale.

Fundamentally there is a requirement to establish the intentions of both parties, over and above what may be considered or deemed as fair. There therefore may be a reliance on precise details of what was verbally discussed or agreed in order to determine who the beneficial legal owner is, or how the proceeds from a sale should be divided.


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