Family Law Specialist

Nicola Williams Solicitor

Nicola Williams Solicitor

Cheadle, Stockport,
Greater Manchester

Family Law & Finances

Nicola Williams Solicitor

Nicola Williams Solicitor

financial family law for individuals and families

What is a beneficial interest – and other family law terminology

What is a beneficial interest? Is a living together agreement the same as a cohabitation agreement? What is a property adjustment order? What does it all mean?

Family law is complicated enough. So here’s a list of the most common phrases you may come across (what is a beneficial interest?) together with their usual meaning, their purpose and anything they’re also known by.

TermMeaningPurposeAlso known as
Ancillary reliefOrders that may be made by a court ancillary to (in addition to) the main proceedings. Most often used to refer to maintenance and property orders at the end of a divorce.To re-distribute assets and income at the end of divorce, dissolution or nullity proceedings.
Financial provision, maintenance, lump sum order, property adjustment order, pension sharing.
Beneficial interestThe right to benefit in/from an asset. Often the right to live in, or share the profit from, a property without legally owning it.To avoid issues where the legal ownership of an asset does not (or cannot in the case of children) reflect who is really entitled to some or all of the rights in it.Equitable interest.

Beneficial owner.

(See Tenant in Common below)
Clean breakAn order that removes the right to make future claims for income or capital.To bring an end to claims for financial provision on divorce or dissolution of civil partnership.Order for financial provision.
Cohabitation agreementAn agreement in writing between two or more people living together in a property.To prevent unintended changes to the beneficial ownership of property, caused by living together and sharing bills and other living costs.Living together agreement.
Consent orderA court order that is made with the agreement of all parties and the judge.To make an agreement legally binding.
To agree steps to be taken at any stage in court proceedings.
Agreed order/agreed financial order.
FDAShort for First Directions Hearing.Orders made to prepare the case for hearing. E.g. production of documents, valuations etc.First Directions Hearing.
FDRShort for Financial Dispute Resolution hearing.A stage in court proceedings when a judge provides input to help the parties negotiate a settlement.Financial Dispute Resolution Hearing.
Joint tenantsTwo, three or maximum four owners of property who own an undivided share in it.Property automatically redistributed to the surviving owner(s) when one dies without needing probate or administration of an intestacy. Often the way married couples own joint property.Joint tenancy
Legal and beneficial joint tenants
Property adjustment orderAn order to transfer property or an order to settle property (hold it on trust)To provide a home for a partner or spouse or childTransfer of property order. Mesher order.
Martin order.
Tenant in commonA joint owner of a property with a separate beneficial interest from the other owner(s)To allow a share in property to be sold or passed on by will.Beneficial owner in equal shares or unequal shares.
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What is a beneficial interest?

What is a beneficial interest – and other family law terminology What is a beneficial interest? Is a living together agreement the same as a cohabitation agreement? What is a property adjustment order? What does it all mean? Family law is complicated enough. So here’s a list of the most common phrases you may come …

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Family Law & Finances

Nicola Williams Solicitor

Nicola Williams Solicitor

financial family law for individuals and families

Claiming a share of a partner’s property

Claiming a share of a partner’s property is possible if you have either

made a financial contribution; or

have been promised a share and have acted to your own detriment in relying on that promise.

This article focuses on situation where only one partner owns the property.

If you want to know about unequal shares in property you own together, look at my page on deed of trust.

claiming a share of a partner's property a house made of bank notes

Title deeds and ownership

Every transfer of property in England and Wales must be registered with the Land registry.

The official register will be updated to show the new legal owner/s and details of any mortgages, restrictions and so on.

Beneficial ownership

The legal title to a property often isn’t the full picture.

A property (or a share in it) can be owned legally by one person on behalf of another.

Here’s an example:

Claire and Peter want to buy a flat together.

Claire has had some credit issues in the past and the mortgage lender wants to impose a higher interest rate as a result. They say they will review this in 12 months.

Peter, on the other hand, can raise enough mortgage to buy the flat on his own salary and with a better rate.

Claire and Peter both have £10,000 in savings. They are both working and intend to pay the mortgage equally.

They go ahead and buy the flat in Peter’s sole name. Claire pays her £10,000 to Peter and he pays the deposit in full.

The title deeds only show Peter as the legal owner. But Claire and Peter have a verbal agreement that she will be entitled to half of the equity when the property is sold.

Peter assures Claire that she has a share in the property. Claire believes Peter’s assurances and continues to pay half of the mortgage.

Their agreement is not in writing. There is no written declaration of trust. But nevertheless, Claire can claim an interest in the property.

Financial contributions to family life may still count towards a share of property

Unmarried couples often pool their resources in a similar way to couples who are married.

For example, one might pay the mortgage whilst the other pays for childcare or holidays. They often don’t keep accurate records of who has paid for what.

It can be difficult to distinguish between payments described as ‘rent’ and contributions towards the mortgage that are intended to give the payer a share in the equity.

People are often unaware of the legal rights and obligations that may be evolving over time. The best way to avoid problems is to have a living together agreement.

Family law and unmarried couples

Misunderstandings are common and many couples expect there to be a general type of family law that protects them if a relationship breaks down.

There is, unfortunately, no family law legislation that specifically deals with unmarried couples who live together.

The rules and laws that apply to this type of situation whilst people are alive, are general property and contract laws.

The courts do their best to interpret these laws in a way to achieve fairness for couples who fall out. And the first thing that they will always look for is any documentary evidence of an agreement.

Without a written agreement, such as a deed of trust, it can be very difficult to prove who owns what.

This can be stressful and very expensive if you go to court.

Providing for an unmarried partner if you die

The rules of intestacy apply after death without a will and there is no provision in them for an unmarried partner.

In limited cases a claim can be made under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependents) Act.

If you want to be sure you have provided for your unmarried partner, make a will.

Claiming a share of a partner’s property through court proceedings.

Claiming a share of a partner’s property through court is a last resort.

Disputes between families are stressful and destructive.

The outcome may be uncertain, and it can take a year or more to conclude.

However, there may be times when you feel you have no choice.

If you are reading this and want to find out where you stand, get in touch and I will let you know whether I can help.

Citizens Advice

You can find out more about the difference between living together and marriage on the Citizens Advice website.

They recommend that you have a living together agreement. A cohabitation agreement is the same thing.

For advice on living together agreements or claiming a share in a partner’s property, get in touch and I will see whether I can help you.

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Family Law & Finances

Nicola Williams Solicitor

Nicola Williams Solicitor

financial family law for individuals and families

Why you need a cohabitation agreement

Living together? Buying a home or a car? Taking out a loan?

You need a cohabitation agreement. They’re straightforward, affordable and can save you a fortune.

What is a cohabitation agreement

Sometimes known as a Living Together Agreement, a cohabitation agreement is a basic contract/agreement between couples about the property they own.

Typically, a cohabitation or living together agreement will:

Identify the shares you each have in your home (sometimes this is to confirm that one of you has no share in the value of the property);

State whether contributions to living costs will entitle either of you to a share (or a greater share) in the value of the property;

List any other significant jointly or separately owned property or assets (e.g. a car) and the shares you each have in them.

A more detailed cohabitation agreement will set out your intentions if one of you dies.

For example, you might want to ensure that your partner is able to continue to live in your home. This may be until they have another relationship or die or it could be for a fixed period of time.

How a cohabitation can save you money

If you are putting a deposit down on a house/flat purchase, itis vital that you record the share it is buying in your home.

If you don’t have a legally recognised document, you might lose some or all of your share of the equity if

one of you dies;

your partner gets into debt; or

you split up.

The laws on joint ownership of property are very strict. There are no special laws for cohabiting couples.

If you buy a property jointly with another person, it is very important to accurately record your share and your agreement about paying the mortgage and insurance.

It’s your most important asset and it’s easy to protect. Don’t risk losing any of it.


A cohabitation agreement can help save you tax in many ways.

Whether it is in relation to additional rate stamp duty, capital gains tax or income tax, having an accurate, legally recognised record of your financial relationship will help.

Affordable legal help

A straightforward agreement has to be affordable for everyone, not just the rich.

It also has to be right for you. It has to do the job you want it to do.

Don’t be tempted to download a generic DIY document because it’s ‘free’ or cheaper than getting a new front door key cut. The chances are it won’t be worth the paper it’s printed on.

All legally binding contracts/agreements have to be properly drafted to be legally binding under English and Welsh law.

Fortunately, the cost of protecting yourself and your property typically starts at around £240 including VAT for a straightforward declaration of no interest in property. A standard cohabitation agreement starts at £360 including VAT. And a more detailed agreement with a floating declaration of trust starts at £600 including VAT.

Fixed Fees

A cohabitation agreement (also known as a living together agreement) is a fixed fee service. After an initial free consultation, I will send you a fixed fee quote.


Cohabitation agreements are legally binding documents, setting out shares in property for unmarried couples.

It is an affordable and sensible way to avoid losing part or sometimes all of your equity in a jointly owned property when you live together.

There are often tax advantages in being able to prove what you own (and what you don’t own).

To find out how I can help you decide whether you need a cohabitation agreement, use the form below to get in touch.

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cohabitation agreement tied together

Nicola Williams is a Family Law Solicitor in the AFG Law Family Team at Cheadle Royal Business Park, Brooks Drive, Manchester, Cheadle SK8 3TD