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Cohabiting in midst of divorce

Posted by catexon 
Cohabiting in midst of divorce
October 19, 2022 11:44PM
I am separated 5+ years but only recently started cohabiting with my new partner. We are waiting for the 2nd court date and in the middle of the FDR phase where I’m now being asked questions about my partner – who she is, do I live there, are we intimate, am I getting remarried etc…
My partner is a single mother with a large/new mortgage and a respectable salary of around £70k per year but in no position to be supporting me.
My divorce is costing so much money, I’m still paying for the marital home (no children) and the cost of lodging myself got out of control. Therefore, my gf is letting me stay with her currently rent free-ish but instead paying for living expenses until post-divorce. I will then secure a property and if we are still staying together then I will pay a proper monthly fee to her and/or we may move into my new property. Either way I intend to get a big mortgage given my earning capacity so likely my debt will be very high e.g. like a £650-£700k property and £200k deposit.

My solicitor has advised me to state this is a ‘friend and I stay over sometimes’ – clearly urging me to not be open about the relationship even if it’s obvious. To be frank my ex knows full well I’ve a gf but it’s not easy to prove we live together. I’ve to date been very transparent on everything but feel odd about guarding this.
I had a few questions:
1. Do you feel my solicitors position is sensible and/or not uncommon in this situation? For the record I am very level headed and not holding anyone responsible for anything on this forum and will make the best judgement myself. Suppose I’m just trying to ascertain is my solicitor way off the mark here and going to land me in trouble or is he being coy and/or tactical in this rather evasive advice. He’s basically telling me on one hand ‘do not lie’ but on the other clearly giving me direction that it is best to avoid this disclosure. He knows the truth but there must be reason he does not want us to divulge this.
2. Why are they interested in this and what lengths would they go to get to the bottom on this – it seems as though it has nothing to do with the process and taking attention away from other key areas of the divorce?
3. Can my new partner be forced to get involved in this process – she will support me if needed and feels her position as a single mother and an ex-husband on benefits doesn’t exactly make her a target for what I presume they may try to make a case for? Clearly, I do not want to burden her and if there is some major issues would prefer to physically move out or be seen to move out anyhow
4. I have said that I have no intention to remarry which is the likely truth particularly given this process and the cost. If I had said yes I may be remarried, what bearing is this? I am still buying my own property and will need to pay a hefty mortgage even on my salary.

Thanks as always.

Re: Cohabiting in midst of divorce
October 20, 2022 10:53AM
If you cohabit the financial circumstances of your partner are relevant because they are relevant to how much you can afford to pay your (ex) wife. Your new partner is not a party to this divorce and so she cannot be forced to pay your wife anything. However, her circumstances are relevant to how much you can afford to pay and so your wife is entitled to ask about them.

Let me give you an example (grossly simplified but sufficient to make the point). Say you have an income of £1,000 a month and that you live on your own such that your rent and outgoings amount to £500 a month. That would mean in principle that you had £500 a month available to pay to your wife. (Whether she would be entitled to that is another matter but it is irrelevant to the example). Then suppose you moved a cohabitee into your rented accommodation and that she earned much the same as you. Then it would be reasonable to suppose that your cohabitee would contribute to the rent and outgoings so what you spent on rent and outgoings decreased to £300 a month. You would then have £700 rather than £500 available to pay to your wife.

Similarly say you lived on your own and the cost to purchase reasonable accommodation for you was £200,000 and you needed a deposit of £20,000. Then assume you intended to purchase a place with a new partner. Say that would cost £300,000 and require a deposit of £30,000. Assuming your new partner earns much the same as you then it would be reasonable to expect her to pay half that deposit and so you would now need £15,000 rather than £20,000.

Like I said, these are grossly oversimplified examples but they illustrate why the financial circumstances of a new partner are relevant.

For this reason it is usually unwise to cohabit unless and until the financial issues arising from a previous marriage have been formally and finally settled.

For what it is worth saying, for instance, that you intend to marry X new partner suggests a very much more permanent (and relevant) relationship than someone else saying, 'Yes, I am seeing someone else but we do not live together and I have no idea how the relationship may develop in the future'. The relevance of that second someone else is minimal.

Then there is the issue of intention. Intentions can change from one day to the next. For instance, it does sometimes happen that people are jilted at the altar.

Your solicitor is correct that you must not mislead your spouse and/or the court. However, your solicitor has also presumably explained to you the possible consequences of cohabiting and/or expressing an intention to remarry. What you do with that information depends on you. Only you know your own intentions but knowing the impact of cohabiting and/or expressing an intention to remarry may shape how you behave.
Re: Cohabiting in midst of divorce
October 20, 2022 12:01PM
thanks for the explanation David.

So strange they focus on this when as you say things change one day to the next and it sounds like they're willing to make an important and impactful financial decision based on a scenario that could change one month later - a breakup, parting or whatever. Then what are people to do, keep going back to court every time they have a life change...

Irrespective my intention is to buy another property, it is the only course of action, to get back on the ladder and start paying it off. So in all likelihood I will have the cost of a mortgage and if I continue to stay with my partner naturally will need to pay her something towards the cost of her property so in no position to also be paying for an ex wife who doesn't want to work.

My gf has a young daughter and there is no support from the father who is on benefits due to ill health unfortunately. I had thought is there a case that I will need to also help pay for the daughter and relinquish any responsibility for my wife who is in truth perfectly capable of working and looking after herself. It's perhaps a far fetched scenario but there is truth in that I'd like to do more for my partner and her daughter but being tied to an ex with ongoing costs would clearly prevent my ability to do so.
Re: Cohabiting in midst of divorce
October 20, 2022 03:18PM
You will not be able to reduce your whatever exposure you may have to your wife by acquiring other dependants. A court will say that you knew your pre-existing obligations before you entered into your new relationship and if anyone should suffer the consequences of that choice it should be you rather than your (ex) wife.
Re: Cohabiting in midst of divorce
October 22, 2022 12:09PM
@David I've taken on board your advice thx and also am assessing to engage another solicitor. Do you have an opinion on the below q's and responses advised by my solicitor? It's quite obvious I live with my gf as the address is all over my legal papers. I don't understand enough about the law to understand if skirting around this is the most sensible but my solicitor clearly knows this is my gf and we live with one another. I don't really want to divulge anything but don't want to create any issues for myself either by divulging this information (or not).

Ultimately I will be buying a property post divorce to get back on the ladder so naturally going to have my own costs so can't treat living with my girlfriend as a permanent fixture even if down the line we stick with it. My gf is urging me to be honest about it and even willing to disclose her finances - she's a single mum w/ no support from the ex husband. On the other hand my solicitor is clearly pushing me this direction below so difficult to know what to do.

1. Please explain the nature of your relationship with xxxxxxxxxx?

Solicitor (my response):
Xxxxxxxis the applicant’s friend.

2. Do you have any plans to cohabit or remarry, and if so, please provide details of your partners finances (required by paragraph 4.6).

Solicitor (my) response:
The applicant has no intention to remarry but does stay over at his friend, xxxx’s property occasionally. The applicant and Xxxxx are not in an intimate relationship necessitating disclosure in these proceedings.

3. What is your association with <address> (this address appears as yours on your disclosed P60 dated April 2022 and on your personal bank statements dating from May 2022)?

Solicitor (my) response:
This address is my friend’s address and he has re-directed his post there because he was concerned of other tenants living at the same address as him accessing his post.
Re: Cohabiting in midst of divorce
October 22, 2022 03:25PM
You should only give answers which are true. If you give answers which are untrue then you run (the very small) risk of being found in contempt of court and the greater risk that wherever what you say and what your wife says is different a court will prefer your wife's version. There is also the risk that answers could be found to be untrue by the other side using a private detective.

Having said all of that, you will recall that I said that how you see a new relationship going is to some extent speculative and in another way it is a matter of intention which only you know and which can change from one day to another. There are therefore many ways in which questions about cohabiting can be answered and still be true. For instance, if a person cohabiting were to say, 'Yes, we are currently cohabiting but this is a temporary arrangement because I really cannot afford other accommodation on top of what I pay my wife and I have no way of knowing how the relationship will develop in the future and after leaving one marriage I am certainly in no hurry to rush into another' then none of that is necessarily untrue and very dependent upon the intention of the person speaking. It would be difficult to prove such statements were untrue.
Re: Cohabiting in midst of divorce
October 22, 2022 04:15PM
great response David thx. The use of 'temporary' is exactly what I've been discussing with my partner and we both agree this is the right way to go. I've started looking for other solicitors as my current one is simply doing admin only and there is no strategic advice on these matters so this forum does help a great deal.

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