Divorce – How to protect your assets

If you’re getting a divorce or ending a civil partnership, you will need to ensure your rights and assets are protected. In some cases, you may have to act quickly to protect your finances, especially if the break-up is acrimonious.

Here is a quick guide on how to ensure your assets are protected when going through a divorce.


If the family home is owned in your spouse’s sole name, you can register your interest in the home to make sure it cannot be sold or re-mortgaged without your knowledge.

If the property is in both your names, as ‘joint tenants’ you may want to change the way its owned. This will prevent your spouse automatically inheriting your share of the property if you were to die before the divorce, or before the dissolution has been finalised.

If your spouse owns property other than the family home you may be able to register a ‘restriction’ at the land registry. This will prevent your spouse from selling the property or securing debt against it.


You may need to speak to your mortgage lender, depending on whose name is on the mortgage to explain what has happened and to discuss how you will manage the mortgage repayments.

It is important to note that if you have a joint mortgage, you are both equally liable for the whole loan.

If you are unable to keep up the mortgage payment it is vital that you seek advice, as this could damage your credit rating, which could make it harder for you to borrow in the future.

Joint Account / Loans

If your break up is acrimonious and you have joint accounts and or loans with your spouse, you should contact your bank or loan provider to explain what has happened.

Consideration may need to be given to whether you need to change the way the account is set up so that both of you have to agree to any money being withdrawn, or to freeze the account.

If you have a credit card account and your spouse has a second card for the same account, you will be responsible for paying for their spending as well as yours. You should therefore consider either asking your spouse to give you the card back or alternatively contact the card company to block the card or remove your spouse from your account.


There is a requirement on parties to provide full financial disclosure prior to any divorce settlement. If you own your own business, make sure you do not transfer assets out of the business. This can be seen as a strategic move to limit or avoid your spouse’s financial claims.

Any attempt to dissipate your assets will be frowned upon by the court and you could be held accountable of litigation misconduct.


In divorce, the pension can be the biggest asset after the family home. It is vital therefore that you find out what type of pension(s) you have and the rules associated with each pension scheme. Consider also obtaining the CETV (Cash Equivalent Transfer Value) for each of your pensions at an early stage as pension providers can take many weeks to provide this information.

What to do if your spouse tries to hide assets

The courts have a wide variety of powers available to them to ensure that there is full and frank financial disclosure. If you suspect that your spouse is hiding assets by either, selling, transferring or getting rid of them, you may be able to apply to the court to stop them.

If you would like to find out more about how to protect your assets during a divorce, please contact Muna Saleem, Partner and Head of the Family Team for a free initial consultation on [email protected]

On the sale of commercial property, is VAT payable on the price?

Buyers and Sellers should not overlook VAT when drafting a sale and purchase contract of commercial property. This issue was considered by the Court of Appeal in CLP Holding Company Limited v Singh. The Court had to review the provisions of a sale contract in order to decide whether the buyer was liable to pay VAT to the Seller in addition to the agreed sale price.

Under a contract entered into in 2006, the seller agreed to sell to the buyer a commercial property for the Purchase Price and which was defined as £130,000. There was no mention of ‘plus VAT’ in the contract. The contract was in a standard form incorporating the Standard Conditions of Sale (4th Edition). These are known as the ‘general conditions’. There were also special conditions, but these did not deal with the question of VAT.

General condition 1.4 stated the buyer was liable to pay any VAT for which the seller was liable. The general conditions also provided all sums payable under the contract were exclusive of VAT.

In the lead up to completion, the solicitors for the buyer raised some requisitions on title and one asked for a completion statement. In its reply, the solicitors for the seller said the amount due on completion was ‘the balance of the purchase monies’ . In the period leading up to exchange, no specific enquiries were raised about whether the seller had opted to tax, or whether VAT would be payable on the price. It appears the buyer decided not to raise the usual standard industry enquiries which specifically deal with these issues.

On completion, the balance of the purchase price was paid, without VAT; the transaction completed and the buyer was registered as the proprietor of the property.

Subsequently it transpired the Seller had indeed opted to tax, and consequently was liable to account to HMRC for the VAT on the sale. After HMRC made an assessment on the seller for VAT, the seller in turn asked the buyer for the VAT, and submitted a VAT invoice to the buyer. The buyer refused to pay. After a long delay, the seller finally issued proceedings and the dispute found its way to the Court of Appeal.

The Court concluded VAT was not payable in addition to the Purchase Price. The court reached this conclusion having regard to all the circumstances of the parties’ relationship and the relevant facts surrounding the transaction as known to them. In addition, the Court relied on the following reasons

1 the seller had never told the buyer that an option to tax had been made
2 the buyers were individuals and there was never a suggestion that VAT might be payable
3 the price had been agreed a long time before completion. Also the buyers had already deposited the Purchase Price of £130,000 long before completion
4 in a reply to a requisition asking for a completion statement, the seller’s solicitors had stated the amount due on completion was ‘The balance of the Purchase Price’ with no mention of VAT.
5 Finally, the special conditions state the purchase price was ‘£130,000’.There was no mention of VAT. There was a conflict with the general conditions – which stated all sums were exclusive of VAT. The Court decided where there was any conflict with the general conditions, then the special conditions must prevail.

Accordingly, the case demonstrates the importance of a seller and a buyer expressly addressing the VAT position on any sale contract in the special conditions on the sale of a commercial property.

Please contact Ivan Barry Partner, Member of the LLP and Head of Commercial Property for more information at: [email protected]

Cohabitation – Know your rights!

This week, Family Lawyers Association Resolution launched its cohabitation awareness week.

The number of unmarried couples living together has more than doubled from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2017. Many cohabiting couples are unaware of their rights, or lack of rights as a cohabitee. As a cohabiting couple you may think that you have financial rights as a ‘Common Law Spouse’ but this is a myth. Couples who cohabit simply do not have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to them by Law as married couples. This is a common misconception. Cohabitation affords little or no legal protection following the breakdown of a relationship.

Whilst cohabiting couples may have exactly the same financial commitments as married couples, such as owning a house, having a joint account and savings, however if the relationship breaks down then division of the assets is dealt differently to a married couple, often leaving the weaker partner with very little protection. As a result, some cohabiting families can find themselves facing real difficulties should they split up, particularly where children are involved.

The only way couples can protect their assets in the event they split up is to put something in writing. A formal document such as cohabitation agreement or a declaration of trust can provide such protection.

Such an agreement can set out who owns what and in what proportion. You can also record and document how you will split any property that you own, its contents, personal belongings, savings and other assets should the relationship breakdown. The agreement can also cover more day to day matters such as the way the household is run or other such circumstances specific to the relationship. Such agreements allow for transparency and certainty and avoid a situation where you leave the relationship with nothing, or where expensive court proceedings have to be started.

Not knowing your rights – or lack thereof – can be costly. Solicitors are often only instructed when things go wrong and the legal costs to rectify an issue exceed the cost of pre-empting action.

In the absence of clear statutory rights, a cohabitation agreement and or a declaration of trust can provide a framework for the division of assets and protect the rights of both parties at the end of their relationship.

If you are considering a cohabitation agreement or simply want more information, contact our Family Law Department today for a confidential free initial consultation.

‘No Fault Divorce’

There is no such thing as a ‘no fault’ divorce, where both parties can agree to end their marriage without the need to assign blame.

At present the only ground for divorce is that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. In order to prove this a petitioner must satisfy to the court one or more of the five facts, three of which are fault based (adultery, behaviour and desertion), two of the facts relate to periods of separation – namely two years if both parties consent, and five years without consent.

For many couples that wish to separate amicably without waiting two years to apply on the grounds of living separately, unreasonable behaviour is often the only option. This unfortunately involves assigning blame in order to obtain a divorce and resolve the arrangements arising from their separation. A balancing act often has to be performed between finding examples which are sufficient enough not to be rejected by the court and not so contentious or inflammatory to lead the other spouse to not cooperate.

Divorce law has been the subject of much criticism over the years with the President of the Family Division, Sir James Munby condemning that the current law is out of date, unjust and based on ‘hypocrisy and lack of intellectual honesty’.

Senior members of the judiciary and Resolution (national association of family lawyers) among others have called for the introduction of no-fault divorce, maintaining that the current law ‘fuel acrimony, hostility and pain – and make good long-term relationships between two parents caring for children impossible’ former high court judge Sir Paul Coleridge. The process can often lead to an unpleasant start for the rest of the process, compounding acrimony and making it difficult to resolve arrangements that need to be made in an amicable manner.

The Government has indicated that any legislative change to remove fault from divorce would be considered as part of its general consideration of what further reform may be needed to the family justice system.

The reality of the modern world is that couples do separate and sorting out the division of assets and arranging the care of the children is often the hardest aspect of ending any marriage. Divorce should not be difficult or place unnecessary and unjust hurdles. Eliminating blame would allow those involved to focus on the main issues. However, opponents of no-fault divorce worry that it might make ending marriage too easy.

Muna SaleemTo keep things as amicable as possible, it is usually best to for couples to work together with the support of mediators and or solicitors, to try and agree on what type of unreasonable behaviour they are willing to agree to. This will allow the divorce process to proceed swiftly.

At Prince Evans we can advise you on every aspect of your divorce. To find out more, call us today for a free initial consultation.

PHOTOS FROM: Safe as Houses

Prince Evans Solicitors welcomed first time buyers and those looking to move up the property ladder to attend our ‘Safe As Houses’ seminar; designed to discuss the protection of your legal and personal interests.

The event was a success with a very attentive audience listening carefully to our advice and information and bringing out some great discussion and questions amongst the group.

PHOTOS FROM: Subletting with leases and access – a seminar for Letting Agents

Last week on November 7th our fantastic team hosted a seminar for Letting agents :- Subletting with leases and access

Jeremy Teall, Partner of Prince Evans Solicitors LLP, was concentrating on issues pertaining to Subletting and Access, both of which have been particularly relevant in recent weeks.

The Future of Residential letting

With the Government discussing the establishment of a Specialist Housing Court, the Labour Party proposing rent controls, Councils wanting to extend licensing, out team invited delegates to partake in a general discussion on impending developments.

For information on future events please contact Louise Heasman on 07950 248 038 or email her at [email protected]

Basics of Land Registration

The old system of retrieving manuscript Official Copies and other deeds and documents such as transfers, conveyance, agreement and deed of grant, legal charge etc. at HM Land Registry have now become redundant. As time has evolved and with the advancement of technology, like the rest of us, HM Land Registry has also adopted the new online system for accessing deeds and documents through their online portal.  For a small fee, the Land Registry will supply an Official  Copy of the title register for any registered property.  Anybody, including a prospective buyer or lender, can request an official copy of the register which allows them to check the ownership of any registered land. The documents are easily made available online and the turnaround for a request is prompt, with the PDF version title documents usually being downloadable instantly.

This updated practice is less time consuming than it used to be (the first incarnation of this required a postal application or telephone call to the Land Registry and them posting out the documents) and a more efficient and effective way to a more concise guide which can assist buyers  and lenders in making important decisions on purchasing/lending on a good and marketable property. 

The Land Registry keeps a register of all registered land, which is in turn indexed on a map. This register contains information on approximately 24 million properties.

Each registered property is allocated a unique title number.  In turn, each individual Title is contained within a register which includes three sections:

  • the ‘proprietorship register’, which contains ownership information; 

  • the ‘property register’, which contains a description of the property, linked to a map; and

  • the ‘charges register’, which contains details of any mortgages or charges affecting the property.

A property’s individual register may also show other information, such as whether there are any rights of way or restrictive covenants which affect the property.

In other words, the title register has details about the property or land in a PDF format which includes the following:

1) the title number

2) who owns it

3) what they paid for it (if available)

4) any rights of way

5) whether the property is ‘charged’ by a mortgage or other lending

You can also view or download a PDF format of the Title plan of the Property which is a map showing the property’s location and the general boundaries.  

Official Copy Entries, title plan and other Deeds and documents cost no more than £3 each which is a reasonable amount and also an effective way of getting information about registered properties and land in England and Wales. 

All of the above only applies to registered land in England and Wales and not unregistered land and properties.  You can establish whether a property is registered via a search of the Land Registry’s index map or via their ‘Map Search’ facility online. This will reveal whether land and properties are registered or unregistered. 

If land and properties are unregistered, in the absence of personal knowledge, it can be hard to find out who owns it.  There are no central records of ownership to search and no documents are recorded at HM Land Registry for unregistered land. In the event of Deeds being lost or destroyed, the information cannot be retrieved.  In contrast, for registered land there is a central, permanent, record which anyone can access online or by making a postal application where the forms are easily accessible online as well.

Compulsory Registration was gradually introduced in England and Wales with all of that area becoming compulsory by 1990.  The registration process is relatively straightforward and the Land Registry’s fees are based on the value of your property. 

If you believe your property not to be registered, it is worth considering registering it now. Not only is there a 25 per cent reduction for voluntary first registrations, but registering your property now could save you time and expense when you come to sell it and pre-empt issues in the future. Registration is also by far the best way possible of protecting your interest and ownership as well, as you would have the reassurance that all documents are securely stored and saved by HM Land Registry and also easily accessible online. Further, if property is registered you can take advantage of the Land Registry’s fraud alerts scheme which we discussed in our article.

If you own unregistered land, you should consider applying for voluntarily registration.  Prince Evans would be delighted to assist you with this, so if you have a query regarding Land Registration please do contact our Residential Conveyancing Team.

Divorce – The Facts

Divorce can be an emotionally challenging and stressful time for everyone involved and the amount of information flying around can feel overwhelming and confusing. Making sure you understand exactly what to expect and what you need to do is vital.

At Prince Evans we like to keep things simple and straightforward and specialise in minimising the emotional distress of divorce on clients and their families by providing expert help and advice.

When a marriage breaks down there are bound to be questions you need the answers to. Here are some facts about Divorce:

1. No-fault divorce

Unfortunately like many other countries such as USA, Canada and Australia there is no such thing as a ‘no fault’ divorce in England and Wales. This has been the subject of much criticism in recent years, however, as the current law stands, there must be an element of blame and one of five reasons must be cited when requesting a divorce:

  • Unreasonable behaviour

  • Adultery

  • Desertion

  • 2 years separation (with consent from your partner)

  • 5 years separation (without consent from your partner)

2. One year rule

You must have been married for at least one year to obtain a divorce, so if you’ve only been married for a short time, unfortunately it will not be possible to get a divorce straight away and there are no exceptions to this rule.

3. Quickie Divorce

Regardless of your individual circumstances and background a ‘Quickie Divorce’ is in deed a myth.

Generally the process can take up to 8 months, however, the length of time will depend on your particular circumstances, these can include; court delays, how amicable your separation is and how your family assets will be split.

4. Pre-nups

A pre-nup is essentially a guide to what happens in the event of a marriage breakdown but it isn’t legally binding in England and Wales. Whilst a Judge will consider a prenuptial agreement – it is possible that it may not be upheld, in particular if certain safeguards have not been met.

5. Court

Most often, divorce is a matter of paperwork. Although a divorce is obtained by making an application to a court, most divorces don’t actually end up going to court.

It is perfectly possible for an agreement to be reached with your partner regarding how family assets will be split. If however, you and your partner can’t agree on the terms or if matters are more complex, there are other forms of dispute resolution available, such as mediation as opposed to going to court.

If you feel that your marriage is in trouble or you are thinking about getting a divorce and would like advice please contact our Family Law Department. We offer an in depth one hour free no obligation consultation with an experienced family lawyer.

Things first time buyers need to know about buying their home

Buying your first property is a daunting proposition. There are many steps in the process and at Prince Evans we will do all we can to guide you along the way. With that in mind, here are 5 things you need to know about buying your first property:

  1. If you are buying with a mortgage then it is advisable to get approval from a lender before you start your search. Pick the right mortgage for you and make sure you shop around before settling for one. Once you are pre-approved, then you are ready to home-hunt. When you find your ideal home, you will need to make a detailed application to your lender so keep your mortgage advisors details close to hand.
  1. Choose your ideal location before searching for your home. Even if you do not have children, living near a school will enhance the value of your property.
  1. When deciding on your budget remember to factor in the costs of purchase, so as well as your deposit, you will need to cover legal fees and disbursements (such as search fees and registration fees) and Stamp Duty Land Tax.
  2. Although the budget may be tight on your first property purchase, it is really important not to scrimp on the cost of a good survey. Try to have at least a ‘Homebuyer’s Report’ carried out and not just the mortgage company’s basic valuation. A property survey will ensure you are not only aware of any hidden flaws the property may have but also that you are paying what the property is worth taking in to account any major works it might need.
  3. Pick the right conveyancer! There are many ‘cheap’ options on the internet, but a mix of unqualified staff carrying out the legal work and potentially missing important points and also not being able to return your enquiries quickly can actually end up costing you much more in the long run. A good conveyancer will be your main point of contact and be only a phone call away to answer any questions you may have and guide you through the process.

We wish you happy home hunting and the best of luck for this adventure. If you would like to instruct Prince Evans please contact the Residential Conveyancing Team CLICK HERE