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