Education & Family
by Aspect County

Divorce Dialogue

Q: I paid for home improvements, but I don’t own the property we live in. We’re now splitting up. Can I get the money I invested back?

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A: Cohabitees only have automatic rights over assets they hold jointly – either in a bank account, on the deeds for a house or by written legal trust document.

If a property isn’t owned jointly, look for a formal express trust document. If there isn’t one, the person without a legal interest could claim a beneficial interest, either a common intention to hold the property jointly which meant them spending the money to renovate or a belief they had an interest in the property before they spent the funds. If there is no express trust, the court can construct a trust in its place.

Any cohabitee thinking of spending money on a house can avoid uncertainty by creating an express trust. Otherwise, what happens to that investment is dependant upon whether you can convince a court that you were promised an interest and then undertook the work in reliance upon that understanding. 

Q: Can I tell my partner to leave our house?
A: If you own the property jointly, both of you have a right of occupation. However, the Police won’t help enforce those rights if locks are changed. If you are married you can register a Matrimonial Homes Rights Notice. If you aren’t married, you can apply to court for an Occupation Order. At a hearing the court will apply the balance of harm’ test: in other words is it more harmful for the person excluded to be allowed back into the property or should they continue to stay elsewhere? 

If locks are changed on a jointly owned house they can be changed again by the other person. Care is needed to ensure that a criminal offence isn’t committed by trying to access a property whilst the other person is present inside. 

Q: My partner checks my phone constantly: is this normal? 

A: It can also be a sign that your partner is coercing and controlling you. If your partner:

1. Uses pressure tactics to monitor what you are doing, controlling where you go, what you wear or your access to money and work;

2. Isolates you from family and friends, your accommodation or transport;

3. Follows you, checks up on you or monitors what you do regularly

You need Legal or Police help. Abusers will deny what they are doing, degrade their partners and make threats to continue and perpetuate the abuse.

Control and Coercion can be so gradually applied so that the victim will be in the midst of it before realising that they can’t escape. Coercive and Controlling behaviour is now a criminal offence and victims can get support from the Police, local domestic violence centres and refuges. 

Q: What do I do if my partner stops me from seeing our children?

A: Without a court order, contact’, can be stopped. However this is usually only temporary. The solution is to apply to court. 

The court will assess what is in the best interests of the children –considering first any risk of harm to 

any child if contact takes place and secondly whether restrictions are needed for other reasons. The Investigations take time, and the court process is very slow. It also fails to sanction parents who simply lie to get an upper hand. This aspect needs work. 


Daniel Bennett

Daniel Bennett