Separation advice for Cohabiting couple with a common kid and a step-daughter

Hello,

Not too sure where to look nor ask for help so thought I should try my luck here...

I have been in a 6y relationship with my gf. We are not married but we have owned a house together for the last 2 years. She has a 10yo girl from a previous relationship and we had together another girl, who is going onto 2.

After thinking long and hard and as much as it is breaking my hurt to leave my daughter, the relationship cannot be salvaged (we tried counseling, etc.)

I am trying to understand several things:
  1. If I officialise the separation, is there any shift in liability/responsibility towards her (i.e.: money, house, etc.)?
  2. Since I was bringing more money home and therefore providing for the family, including my stepdaughter. Would I be liable for maintenance for our common daughter only or for both girls?
  3. If I move out of our jointly owned house, since the mortgage is in both name, I would remain liable too... So is there a way to force the process for selling the house? As I could not afford to rent a place and pay most of the mortgage at the same time.
  4. I contacted Family solicitors but the rate seems very high (215+VAT). When Cohabitating, is there a need to see one to put together legal documents? Or is it only necessary for Divorce?
  5. Am I correct saying that despite being in a relationship for 6yo, there is no binding agreement between us like it would exist for married couples?
    For instance, she is not able to go after my own investments/savings?
  6. With regards to the parental responsibility, how does it get decided with who our daughter would live?
  7. To split all the goods (i.e. furniture, etc...), do you have to go in front of a solicitor or is it simply a matter of splitting things up?
I am sorry for all these questions but I feel a bit overwhelmed with the situation and really not sure how to find things out without spending a fortune (which I don't have) on a Family solicitor...


Thanks,
Jeff

Comments

  • RAS
    RAS Posts: 32,645 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post
    Scottish law is different but in England and Wales there is no such thing as common law marriage however long you have been together.

    Child support would be 12% of gross income for one child. In the absence of a marriage it is unlikely that your would be expect to contribute for your step daughter.

    Your ex-wife can claim income support and mortgage interest allowance towards the cost of the house and support for the children. Check https://www.turn2us.org.uk to see how much she will get.

    Strongly advise that you speak to the mortgage provider urgently and tell them what is happening. Ask them to send copies of all communications to you at your new address.

    Do you have any joint bank accounts, cards, savings accounts? You need to ensure that both signatories are required to debit anything, otherwise she could clear out all accounts, run up overdrafts and leave you in debt.
    Also make sure she has no second cards.

    You both need your own accounts and may want to agree to split any joint accounts 50:50.

    The house is a problem. How much equity is there in the house? Was there any deed of trust signed when you bought it? If so what does it say about relationship breakdown and sale?

    The mortgage provider is not going to let her take on the mortgage unless she can afford it herself. She is not going to want to sell it if if she can afford it. And you are not going want to keep on paying the mortgage.

    As said she can get state support to cover the interest payments but that still leaves you at risk if she defaults. So the best thing would be to agree a sale.

    You may end up having to go for an order for sale but that is costly.

    In the short term:

    You are going to need somewhere to stay. Got any friends who would put you up for a few months?

    Tell that you will pay 3 months mortgage and thereafter she has to claim MIA. If she wants to stay, she can ask the mortgage provider if she can go interest only. If they refuse, then she has to pay the capital from her benefits and CMA or agree to a sale.
    The person who has not made a mistake, has made nothing
  • Gigglepig
    Gigglepig Posts: 1,270 Forumite
    Re 2 and 6
    If custody is an issue could you book mediation or couples counselling to help you and your ex discuss? If you have been like a father for this girl since she was 4 would you not want to continue that relationship and continue to provide for her? Is her biological father still in the picture and providing for her? Would you want to have both girls staying? Please do not let down the 10yo as it isn't her fault what tha adults she relies on do. IMO it Would make no sense for you to have custody of the 2 yo and as a consequence split them up. May be better for the children if both live with their mother and 2 yo comes to visit you. Times/frequency differ since all families are different, children have different needs, and parents have different working patterns too and there may be other factors that determine what is practical. Given her age it might be too much in the short term to be away from home and her mum for say a whole weekend.
  • TBagpuss
    TBagpuss Posts: 11,199 Forumite
    First Post First Anniversary Name Dropper
    If I officialise the separation, is there any shift in liability/responsibility towards her (i.e.: money, house, etc.)?
    Because you are not married, you don't have any financial obligations to each other, only to your child, and to any creditors with whom you have joint debts (such as the mortgage)
    Since I was bringing more money home and therefore providing for the family, including my stepdaughter. Would I be liable for maintenance for our common daughter only or for both girls?

    you are only *legally* liable to support your daughter, you can work out your obligation using the CMS calculator. However, presumably your step-daughter has been part of your family for the past 6 years - you may want to consider what you want your relationship to be with her going forward
    If I move out of our jointly owned house, since the mortgage is in both name, I would remain liable too... So is there a way to force the process for selling the house? As I could not afford to rent a place and pay most of the mortgage at the same time.

    Yes, if you cannot come to an agreement with your former partner it would be possible to make an application under ToLaATA for the house to be sold. Alternatively it might bepossible for you to come to an agreement with her that she stats in the house until your daughter leaves school, and is responsible for the mortgage during that time. If so, the two of you could get a declaration of trust drawn up so you have a legal agreement about what you will each be entitled to when the house is sold, and what you will each be responsible for in the mean time.
    I contacted Family solicitors but the rate seems very high (215+VAT). When Cohabitating, is there a need to see one to put together legal documents? Or is it only necessary for Divorce?

    If you want a legally binding agreement then yes, you will need proper legal advice. If you agree that the house is to be sold, the mortgage paid off and you each take your share now then you won't need a separation agreement but will of course need a conveyancing solicitor.
    Am I correct saying that despite being in a relationship for 6yo, there is no binding agreement between us like it would exist for married couples?

    For instance, she is not able to go after my own investments/savings?
    With regards to the parental responsibility, how does it get decided with who our daughter would live?
    She would not have a claim against your savings. In relation to your daughter, in the event that you cannot agree either between yourselves, or with the help of mediation, then either of you could apply to court - the decision would be made based what is considered to be in your daughter's best interest. the issue of whether or not you are married would be irrelevant. It is unlikely that a court would consider it appropriate to separate your daughter and her sister, so it is likely that they would continue to live with their mother and have contact with you.
    To split all the goods (i.e. furniture, etc...), do you have to go in front of a solicitor or is it simply a matter of splitting things up?

    if you can agree between yourselves then that is the best way. If not,mediation or COllaborative family law may help you.
    All posts are my personal opinion, not formal advice Always get proper, professional advice (particularly about anything legal!)
  • Jeff.Jones78
    Jeff.Jones78 Posts: 36 Forumite
    Thanks for all the answers.

    TBagpuss, a special thank you. Much appreciated!
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