An­nal­isa Bar­bieri

The Guardian - Weekend - - Contents - Send your prob­lem to an­nal­isa.bar­bieri@mac.com. An­nal­isa re­grets she can­not en­ter into per­sonal cor­re­spon­dence

Two exes, two kids, one flat... Help!

I live with my ex-part­ner (we have never mar­ried) in our jointly owned flat, which he is re­fus­ing to agree to sell. Our re­la­tion­ship ended about a year ago. We have two chil­dren to­gether. We both work full-time, but I do 95% of ev­ery­thing at home. More fun­da­men­tally, I think he is bor­der­line emo­tion­ally abu­sive. I am anxious and ner­vous around him. He is never phys­i­cally vi­o­lent, but he pun­ishes me when he gets an­gry with me – by with­draw­ing of­fers of child­care, or re­fus­ing to speak to me for days, or threat­en­ing not to pay money into our joint ac­count from which things like the mort­gage, bills and nurs­ery are paid. When con­fronted about this be­hav­iour, he doesn’t ac­knowl­edge it.

He earns very lit­tle while I make a good salary and have sav­ings. But I can’t move out and rent some­where while also pay­ing our mort­gage. I have sug­gested var­i­ous op­tions, but he says he doesn’t want to live any­where else. I could prob­a­bly buy him out and man­age the mort­gage on my own, but he will not en­ter­tain that idea.

He is a good fa­ther – we have dif­fer­ent par­ent­ing styles but I know how much he loves his chil­dren and they him. I have never set out to take his chil­dren away from him, and have been clear with him about that. We have agreed in prin­ci­ple to share res­i­dence. But now, we’re in limbo. He is re­fus­ing to go to me­di­a­tion. How can I bring about some kind of sat­is­fac­tory res­o­lu­tion?

It’s clear you can move on only by ceas­ing to co­habit, but I un­der­stand this seems im­pos­si­ble at the mo­ment. In your longer let­ter you de­tailed var­i­ous op­tions your part­ner has put for­ward, but these do not sound vi­able, and I think he is us­ing them to cloud the is­sue and con­fuse you. Think about what will suit the chil­dren best. There are two op­tions, given what you have told me: you buy him out and con­tinue to live there, or you sell and split what you’re both owed and buy separately.

I’m afraid that if he is re­fus­ing to sell there is no op­tion but to con­sult a lawyer. Rights of Women (right­sof­women.org.uk) is an ex­cel­lent source of free le­gal ad­vice for women in your sit­u­a­tion. Talk­ing to some­one who can ad­vise you may clear things in your mind and make you feel stronger, and you can do a lot of the leg­work be­fore you sit down in front of a solic­i­tor. Check if you might qual­ify for le­gal aid (gov.uk/check-le­gal-aid). Refuge (refuge.org.uk) also helps with do­mes­tic vi­o­lence and the law.

I spoke to Tony Roe, from Tony Roe Solic­i­tors, a spe­cial­ist in fam­ily law. “No rights have been gained by liv­ing to­gether as you are not mar­ried,” he says. “Check in what man­ner the prop­erty was pur­chased – jointly as ben­e­fi­cial joint ten­ants, or as ten­ants in com­mon. If the lat­ter you may not own equal shares.” Roe also points out that if your part­ner was not named on the chil­dren’s birth cer­tifi­cate, he will not have le­gal re­spon­si­bil­ity for them ( be­cause you are not mar­ried) and he would need to ap­ply for it.

Roe also says you can ap­ply to the court for an or­der of sale. To avoid go­ing to court, you could get a lawyer (solic­i­tors.law­so­ci­ety.org.uk) to write to your part­ner “be­fore ac­tion” say­ing you will seek costs if he does not agree to the sale – this may help per­suade him to sell. But you need spe­cial­ist ad­vice.

The court will also take into ac­count the chil­dren’s rights. Roe says that “al­though the Child Main­te­nance Ser­vice deals with child sup­port, some sep­a­rate fi­nan­cial claims can be made for chil­dren through the court. These in­clude ap­pli­ca­tions for pay­ments of school fees and cer­tain cap­i­tal/prop­erty claims on their be­half.”

As well as the le­gal side, some­thing else that is vi­tal: when­ever some­one men­tions an abu­sive part­ner – be they phys­i­cally or emo­tion­ally/ fi­nan­cially abu­sive like yours – I have to point out that it’s at the point of leav­ing that you and the chil­dren are po­ten­tially most at risk. It’s tremen­dously im­por­tant you keep your­selves safe. While there may not be any risk, pro­ceed with cau­tion. Women’s Aid (wom­en­said.org. uk) has ad­vice in terms of mak­ing a safety plan – you may also want to keep your chil­dren’s pass­ports, some money and im­por­tant doc­u­ments some­where out of the house

I’m afraid that if he is re­fus­ing to sell there is no op­tion but to con­sult a lawyer

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