In the present economic climate, many people are really concerned about how they are going to meet their living costs as the winter approaches. Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that inflation in the UK in the 12 months to September 2022 reached 10.1% and the Bank of England report that it could reach 11% in October. This is the highest inflation has been in the UK for forty years and following on from years when the UK enjoyed very low rates of inflation, this is a shock to people and the vast majority of people will have seen their living costs go up whereas their income has not increased to keep pace.
This situation is a worry to people in any event, but the situation is even more acute for couples whose relationship breaks down and they are then looking at how they might be able to meet those costs on their own. When relationships break down, it becomes very difficult and stressful to live in the same accommodation as your former partner but a lot of people are finding they are simple unable to move on and are stuck living in the same accommodation.
This might be because of the lack of available property in the local area to rent, or at least the lack of available property at a cost they can afford. If both parties were previously using their joint incomes to contribute to the bills, it can come as a great worry to know how to afford things on your own. This is especially so if one party has bene the main breadwinner and the other has perhaps been bringing up children and either not working or working on a part time basis.
Even where both parties are working, there is also the problem that they both may need to continue to contribute to joint mortgage or rent on the family home as one party cannot afford this on their own, because it is very important to avoid rent or mortgage arrears. This could threaten the security of the children’s housing and lead to poor credit rating which will prevent either party being able to rent or buy a property going forward.
There are also unfortunately situations where one party simply refuses to move out or consider selling the family home if it is owned. If a party is already jointly names on a tenancy or mortgage, they are likely to encounter difficulties persuading a mortgage lender or letting agent to let them take on another mortgage or tenancy. All of these things can leave parties stuck living in the same accommodation for a considerable length of time after the relationship has ended, especially as rent and mortgage payments may well have gone up recently.
This can lead to increased stress and tension and can seriously affect the wellbeing of both the parties and any children living in the home. In some cases, this will even lead to – or increase – domestic abuse, where one party may be subjected to emotional and financial abuse and coercive and controlling behaviour as well as physical abuse. In these situations, it is important to take advice from local domestic abuse charities.
So, what are the options if you find yourself in a situation like this? Firstly, it is always worth considering if one party can move in temporarily with friends or family who may be willing to accept a reduced contribution in lieu of rent in the short term to help out. This can buy some breathing space whilst longer term solutions are considered.
Sometimes parties can adapt the family home to provide relatively separate accommodation, if there is an annex or attic that perhaps can be used for this. If the parties are in the fortunate position to own a buy to let or other second property as well as the family home, then one party might be able to live in that at least temporarily (though that could lead to loss of rental income which could be an issue).
One of both of the parties might need to consider taking a second job or increasing their working hours if this is an option, or possibly one party could move out and if there is a spare room, a lodger could be taken in to bring in some extra income to help plug the income gap until a longer term solution can be found.
It is always worth looking at what benefits you may be entitled to as a single person that was not available when part of a couple. This is particularly so for the lower or non earner especially if there are dependent children. The government approved benefits calculator Turn2Us.org can be a useful place to start and do remember that you can in some circumstances be treated as a single claimant, not part of a couple, even if you are living separately whilst under the same roof. It is important to maximise any out of work or in work benefits because these could plug the income gap and enable the parties to live separately.
Some people who have already met a new partner may find they are tempted into moving in with that partner, or setting up home together, sooner than they might want to because it seems the only way to afford to move on but this should only be done after careful consideration as it may not be the best answer.
It is always a good idea to take legal advice at an early stage so you have more information about what the likely outcome would be in your case. If domestic abuse is a serious issue, then it is possible you may be able to apply to the court for an Occupation Order, which can exclude one party from the family home or from part of the home. This is something that is often considered together with an application for a Non-Molestation Order to give personal protection against abusive behaviour from the former partner.
These are challenging times and it can be difficult to see a way through but with early advice you will feel better placed to know what your options are. We at Valemus Law have specialist family solicitors who will be happy to advise you on your options and how you can move matters forward.
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