Financial Consequences of Separation

FINANCIAL CLAIMS AGAINST YOUR PARTNER ON SEPARATION

As you were not married, neither of you have any claims against the other arising from your relationship. Therefore, the assets that you own will remain yours, and vice versa. Any joint bank accounts will need to be closed and the balances divided equally between you. You will both remain liable for any joint debts.

MAINTENANCE FOR YOURSELF AND YOUR CHILD

As you are not married, you have no financial rights against one another. Neither of you can claim financial support from the other. If you have children, the person with whom the child lives can apply for financial support for the children that you have together. This can include both maintenance (child support) and capital.

ENGAGEMENT RING

When an engagement breaks down the issue of who keeps the ring can be a major issue. The law is very clear on this issue: the gift of an engagement ring is thought to be an ‘absolute gift’ that is a gift given forever. This presumption can be challenged if it is proven that the ring was given on the condition that it would be returned if the marriage did not take place.

If the court was to decide this issue, it would need to decide whether the gift of the ring was conditional upon the marriage taking place. If you cannot prove that this was the basis upon which the ring was gifted, then the ring will not need to be returned.

An example of this is the case of Cox v Jones. The man claimed return of the engagement ring on the basis of alleged conversations at the time of the engagement that, if the engagement were broken off, the woman would return the ring. However, on the facts, the judge found that the conversations had not taken place. The couple were on a romantic break at the time, and the judge did not believe that the man said clearly that if the relationship broke down he would want the ring back. It is not the sort of thing many would say at the moment of engagement, but one circumstance where there might have been an express agreement to this effect is where the ring is a family heirloom.

PROCEDURE TO CLAIM BACK THE ENGAGEMENT RING

Before you issue your application you must comply with the Practice Direction on Pre- Action Conduct and Protocols (http://www.justice.gov.uk/courts/procedure-rules/civil/rules/pd_pre-action_conduct) which is mandatory and will ensure that both parties understand each other's position, and have considered other forms of dispute resolution.

The claimant must write to the defendant with concise details of the claim. This should include:

  • the basis for the claim;
  • a summary of the relevant facts;
  • the claimant's objective, that is, what they would like from the defendant; and
  • where money is sought, how this has been calculated.

The defendant must respond to the claimant within a reasonable time. The Pre-action PD considers this to be 14 days in a straightforward case, and no more than three months in a very complex case. Any reply should confirm whether the claim is accepted and, if not, why. It should also set out which facts and parts of the claim are disputed and, if the defendant is making a counterclaim, any details of this.

Both parties must disclose any key documents that are relevant to the issues in dispute.

If you do not comply with the Practice Direction the court may impose a number of sanctions, including making a costs order against the non-compliant party.

If there is a significant dispute of the facts then an application can be made under Part 7 of the Civil Procedure Rules. In this case you will need to complete Form N1:

https://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/HMCTS/GetForm.do?court_forms_id=338

If there is no significant dispute of facts you may make your application under Part 8 of the Civil Procedure Rules. In this case you will need to complete Form N208:

https://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/HMCTS/GetForm.do?court_forms_id=424

It will be a question of fact for the judge as to whether there was an agreement that the ring would be returned in the event of the breakdown of the relationship.

PETS ON SEPARATION

As sad as it may seem, in England and Wales, in the eyes of the law a pet is a chattel, to be divided up in the same manner as the household furniture or jewellery. The court can transfer ownership to one party or the other, but cannot make an order dividing the pet’s time between the parties. Prize-winning pedigree dogs or thoroughbred race-horses, can be extremely valuable and are likely to be ascribed a monetary value.

Whether this remains the case in the future remains to be seen. The law in other countries, most notably the USA, Israel and Switzerland is starting to consider what is in the best interests of the pet in question in order to determine with whom they should live. In early 2017, Alaska introduced a new law providing for joint ownership of family pets.

However, in the meantime, if one party feels very strongly that a pet should remain with them following the breakdown of the relationship a pre-or post nuptial agreement (if married) or a cohabitation agreement (if living together) may help to provide clarity. If the parties wish to share a pet following the breakdown of their relationship, there is nothing to stop them from reaching an agreement to this effect, and mediation may help them to do so.

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