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Readers' Questions - Breaking up & other property or money...

Dear Mary,
My partner and I recently split. We were not married or anything. Last year I took out a loan which she was supposed to sign for too - but she could not make it. The loan was debt consolidation for £11,000 not including interest. Her part of the loan was over £4,500. But she is refusing to give me the money.

I have proof of where all the debt came from. Can I get my money from her?

Unfortunately the legal position is that if the debt is in your name, you and you alone are legally responsible for paying it off. Putting the whole debt in your name because she was busy was an extremely bad idea - but that knowledge doesn't help you now.

Do you have any evidence that it was supposed to be in both names? Do you have any proof of the agreement that she would pay off £4,500. You could take the matter to court, but this is likely to be a very drawn out and expensive business, and there is no guarantee that you would win (although the more evidence you have, the better your chances are).
You could consider using the small claims procedure. It is at least fairly cheap and may be worth it. The trouble is that, even if the court agrees with you, you may still have trouble getting her to pay up. Generally people's best bet with small claims is to hope that the court papers alone make people pay up. This is very useful with dodgy bosses or landlords who have nicked your deposit; I'm not sure how it would work with your ex-girlfriend.
Your best bet is to try to negotiate with her. If she's dead set against paying you, I'm not sure if there is much you can do.
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Dear Mary,
I recently split up with my girlfriend. It was all amicable at the start and we agreed on a financial settlement whereby she would pay me back money because I was contributing more into the joint account than her each month. However, since then she has decided not to pay me anything back.

Am I entitled to that money because she has shown some consideration and willingness to repay or is it a lost cause?

Sorry to say this but its probably best to give it up as a lost cause. I'm guessing the agreement you made wasn't written down and signed by both of you? You could take the matter to court, but this is likely to be a very drawn out and expensive business, and there is no guarantee that you would win. Particularly if there is no proof of the agreement.

You should only consider going to court as a last resort really. And if the amount of money we are talking about is fairly small, it's likely that going to court will take more money and hassle than it is worth.

Check out our Breaking Up survival guide (1.4 MB) for more information, and reminders of the things you should do if you split up. And if you find yourself moving in with a girlfriend again, remember to make a Living Together Agreement which may have helped you avoid this, and other problems. For more information see our How to make a living together agreement (2.1 MB) leaflet.
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Dear Mary
My partner and I have been living together for 22 years, we have bought the house together and it is paid for.

We are both 61 and find that we are no longer compatible. We have no children, and we remain good friends. Do you find any problem with us selling the house and just splitting everything down the middle 50/50. Or is there a problem in our way we don’t know about. There is no other person involved in this split and we are both retired.

It’s always sad to hear of long term couples splitting up, but it is quite inspiring that you still care enough about each other to want to ensure everything is fair.

In your circumstances there is no problem with splitting everything 50/50, as long as you are both happy with that. The problems usually arise because one person thinks they should have more. You should write any agreement down, and both sign and date it - just in case any disagreement arises in the future. If you find you have trouble agreeing the details you could consider using a family mediation service.

There are some things you do usually have to watch out for when you are agreeing how to split things. Pensions are sometimes a tricky business if you don’t have one each. Debts, and joint accounts also frequently pose problems. But you can avoid these difficulties (and others) by following the advice in our Breaking Up survival guide (1.4 MB). It also has some useful advice on financial settlements.

I wish you both the best of luck.
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Dear Mary,
Recently, my boyfriend and I moved into a rented flat together. I paid around £1500 and he paid £625. I also fully furnished the place with help from my parents and a student loan. A week later, his behaviour changed and he started to become very verbally abusive so I stayed at my mum's for a few days. When I returned, he was violent and threatened to throw all my stuff out if I didnt leave (he announced that he had got what he wanted and now I had to go). I was devastated and left in the middle of the night.

After 2 weeks I went back, determined to put it down to a bad experience, and he begged me to return promising he would never do it again. Of course he did, the very next day. He was abusive again and was fighting me to get the keys back, so I either had to leave and never return or stay in the house and never venture outside. I realised it was unsafe for me to stay again, and he threatened to break my legs and punch my face in if I didnt go.This time I left but hit him back when he cornered me. I was convinced by now he was probably on drugs because I had no other explanation for his Jekyl and Hyde character.

Since I've left, his parents offered me money for the furniture as I cannot go and get it on my own, but I still haven't received any money.

The landlord has signed the flat over into my ex's name and I've been assured that I am not liable for any utility bills. I have also managed to take my name off our joint account.

I am trying to get my deposit back (the £815 he'll get back at the end of the tenancy providing it's all in good condition) but neither him nor his family will reimburse me. And there's no guarantee I'll get it back at the end because out of spite I know he'll cause damage, or use it to pay the rent.

I am a full time student and now have no money left. I put all my money and efforts into the flat as an investment for me, not a gift for him!

Apparently, I am eligible for legal aid but I need to know if I have any other rights and whether a small claims courts is more affective then a solicitor.

His family have said if I take them to court then they'll sue me for leaving and not paying any rent from now on. But the point is I didnt chose to leave, I was forced out by violence after 6 days! I am very confused and would greatly appreciate some advice. Thank you.

This is a horrible situation. I think you you have a number of choices as to how you want to deal with it. You could take legal action and try to keep the flat yourself, but you seem to be more concerned with the money that you've lost and can't afford not to get back. In which case, I wonder if you could ask the landlord for the deposit back instead - it might be considerably easier than dealing with your ex and his family. If the landlord has signed the tenancy over so it is now in your ex-boyfriend's name, this is probably a new tenancy - in which case he should have refunded you the deposit, and asked for a new one from your ex. Get an appointment at your local CAB or speak to someone at the Shelter helpline (0808 800 4444) to see if they can help you take this route.

The other problem is the money you spent on furniture. The legal position is if you paid for it, you own it. Your best bet is to come to an agreement with him or his family. I'd suggest trying to speak to his parents calmly about either paying you for it as they said they would (in which case make an agreement about how and when) or helping you return to the flat when he's not there, so you can take it back. I don't see how they can 'sue you' for anything, this is just an empty threat - you haven't done anything wrong, and you are no longer liable for rent or any of the bills.

If you are unable to come to an agreement, it might be worth going through the small claims court to try and get the money they owe you, but even if you win you'll still have problems getting them to actually cough up. It may, as you say, be worth employing a solicitor as you qualify for legal help - but even with this, if you win money you'll have to pay your legal costs out of it. Try the negotiation route first.

You could, of course, also go to the police about the violence and threats your boyfriend subjected you to.

Good luck - Do let me know how it goes.
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Dear Mary,
My son split up with his girlfriend a couple of months ago. During the early part of the relationship they were struggling with money so I offered to get a loan of £10,000 which they both agreed to. When they lived together they both paid me back on a monthly basis but since the split his ex girlfriend refuses to even acknowledge that a loan exists. She never signed any contracts or letters of guarantee so do I have any legal recourse to get her half back?

Unfortunately the legal position is that if the debt is in your name, you and you alone are legally responsible for paying it off. You could take the matter to court, but this is likely to be a very drawn out and expensive business, and there is no guarantee that you would win. Particularly if there is no proof of the agreement.

You could consider using small claims procedure. It is at least fairly cheap and may be worth it. The trouble is that, even if the court agree with you, you may still have trouble getting her to pay up. Generally people's best bet with small claims is to hope that the court papers alone make me people pay up. This is very useful with dodgy bosses or landlords who have nicked your deposit, I'm not sure how it would work with your son's ex-girlfriend.

Basically, if she's dead set against paying you, I'm not sure if there is anything you can do.

Unfortuantely, we can nolonger take answer questions to the problem page. Hopefully, you will find the answer to a similar question on these pages.

October 2010

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