Friday, 17 June 2011

This Is My Home - Isn't It?

Leeds Family Law, the legal practice specialising in family related disputes opened its doors to the public on the 14th June 2011. This was a special moment for the Director/Solicitor of the practice, Talvinder Penaser who has worked hard to forge a career in law as a working mother.

Talvinder says "I am delighted that the firm can finally announce it is open to the public. I established this firm as a platform enabling me to provide high quality advice to those that require it at one of the most vulnerable times in their lives. Any family dispute or relationship breakdown is traumatic for the individual concerned. I will help each individual to come to terms with the changes in their life that will inevitably occur after a separation and ensure that their legal rights are protected."

Each month I will write an article about different aspects of family life that will require legal attention if they go wrong. In this article I will concentrate on the changing dynamics of the family unit in the UK. The family unit no longer consists of a married Mum and Dad with 2.5 children. The trend is that the number of people wanting to marry is reducing and the number of people choosing to live together is increasing. Many live happily together for many years and go on to have children without feeling the need to marry.

The concerning aspect as a family solicitor is the number of people that I see that have wrongly assumed that they have legal rights over the property of their partner. If you are married or have formed a Civil Partnership your legal rights are better protected.

For couples the reality is very different. If you have moved into your partners home and the tenancy is in your partners sole name or they are the legal owner of the property then your rights are limited. You have no right to remain in that property once the relationship ends and will have to leave in many cases, taking the children with you. The situation is much worse for those that suffer the unfortunate death of a partner as you may find that you are homeless and if your partner owned this property, it will be passed to his blood relatives. That is what the Law says will happen. You are out of the equation.

"But there is an understanding between my partner and I that this is MY home too should anything happen. After all, I live here. This is my home." I hear this all too often.

Another financial blow after having no rights to your home is that you will not receive any Bereavement benefits or any entitlement from your partners State Pension based on their National Insurance Contributions. You may have given up a career to look after the home and children and you now have no income and no benefits and find yourself homeless with children.

So what can you do to prevent this?

There are a number of options; become a registered owner of the property with your partner, in which case you have the choice of whether each of you wants the property to pass to the other (Joint Tenants) or whether each of you wishes to pass this property to your families upon death and not to each other (Tenants in Common), make a Will and consider a Living Together Agreement. If you are renting a property put both names on the tenancy agreement or when you purchase a new property together make sure you take independent legal advice on how you can protect your legal rights.
If you have children it is important to ensure that the father of the children has Parental Responsibility for them. ‘Parental Responsibility' is the legal term that means ‘all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority' that go with being a parent. Again a simple agreement made between the two of you can ensure that this is in place. Parental Responsibility is automatically with the mother and it is often the fathers that struggle. If your child was born before December 2003 and you are named on the birth certificate, you do not have Parental Responsibility and should take legal advice from an Accredited Family Law Specialist to ensure this is in place.
Many couples live together without giving any thought to what would happen if they separate or if their partner was to die. Death is real and will happen to all of us. It is what we leave behind that is out of our control unless specific steps have been taken to put into action our wishes regarding children, property and other financial issues. It is important to ensure that you take the necessary legal steps to protect yours and your families interest now.