Legal Q&A:will my ex-partner get most of the equity when our house is sold?

How much equity will I be entitled to if we sell the family house – which I have not lived in for eight years - when our youngest child turns 21?

Question: I own a house with my ex-partner. We never married, I have not lived there for eight years and I have paid nothing towards the mortgage since leaving.

She has told me that if the property is sold in 10 years’ time when our youngest child reaches 21, which is what we planned, then I will only be entitled to 25 per cent of the equity. Is this correct?

Answer: You need to establish how you own the house with your ex. Do you own it in equal shares? Or have you entered into a declaration of trust with her — which probably would have happened at the time you bought the place — to say that you own it in unequal shares?

The general presumption is that if you own the house in equal shares, the proceeds of sale should be shared equally, too. However, it is possible for your former partner to overturn that presumption.

To do this, she would need to show that there had been a “common intention” between you to vary the shares you each legally own in the property. That could be inferred from conduct and other dealings between the two of you.

Financial contributions are relevant of course, but they are not the only factor to look at in cases such as this — if your ex-partner actually excluded you from the property, that would also be taken into account.

This is a relatively complex area of law and each case will be very different depending on all the facts. Therefore, it would be sensible for you to take specialist legal advice.

What’s your problem?

If you have a question for Fiona McNulty, please email or write to Legal Solutions, Homes & Property, London Evening Standard, 2 Derry Street, W8 5EE.

We regret that questions cannot be answered individually, but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a legal director in the private wealth group of Foot Anstey

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