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3 years after voluntarily leaving, ex (unmarried) wants house or bribe

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  • 3 years after voluntarily leaving, ex (unmarried) wants house or bribe

    Hello - I'm really sorry about the length of this. I've tried to keep it as factual and "bullet points" as possible. Reading it back, it all seems so nuts. As someone said, "you're deep inside WTF territory"!.

    I totally understand that I'll need proper legal advice - as mentioned below, I have something pencilled in for Tuesday.
    The deal is that if I write reasonably concise narrative and bring in the key documents, they will give me the first hour half price at £120 inc, and from that should be able to tell what my options and chances are.

    The first actual appointment I could get was next Tuesday, but given that the 21 day extortion offer expires that Friday, I really need to hit the ground running and ensure I've hit the nut from every angle.

    So far, I've been told:
    • Niche case, no way of knowing which way it could go in court.
    • Fighting it could cost up to £20k each, one of us could lose £40k of our son's future to lawyers. Flip of a coin.
    • Avoid TOLATA if possible - it can be very expensive.
    • No legal aid possible as no child welfare or abuse issues.

    If one of you lovely people spots something immediate I can do without involving solicitors then fantastic! But failing that, I am hoping to get an idea as to whether the narrative below gives is too little, too much, or just right. Let's try and aim for The Goldilocks Narrative! Thank you all.

    ---------------------

    In 2008, I purchased a property outright for myself and partner to live in, and paid for it 100% myself.

    The attendance attached to the deeds notes that:
    "They had thought about putting the property into [my] sole name but I [the solicitor] said that this meant that they would be faced with further Land Registry fees in order to transfer into joint names. My initial view was that they should hold the property as tenants in common since [I] am providing 100% of the purchase monies. However, in view of the fact that they plan to marry within the year and [I] wanted to make sure that [my ex] was provided for in the event of anything happening to [me], we jointly decided that it would be more appropriate to put the property into their joint names as beneficial joint tenants"

    Key points here: At the time, I missed the thing about "plan to marry within a year" - absolutely no plans were made and we never married.
    At the time of signing the deeds, I almost jokingly asked her whether this was a safe thing to do. She replied, "don't be ridiculous, if I ever left, I'd never take you for anything, I'd just go" - and pointed out that she'd done precisely that in her previous marriage.

    On this basis, I signed. I would quite obviously NOT have signed if I had understood the implication that the addendum apparently means nothing, and had assumed that no solicitor would have suggested something which was ultimately harmful to his client.

    • 8 years later in January 2016, she just upped and left to live with someone else.
    • No accusation of anything on my side.
    • No arguments about custody of our then 5-and-a-half year old son.
    • 2 months later, a letter came from a solicitor saying "Her name's on the deeds, pay £60k now or we'll take you for half the house". (would be approx £100k)
    • Advice was: Ignore, she's trying to provoke a response, wait and see. Nothing came of it.
    • 2 months later, a different solicitor wrote. I did the same.
    • Later again, a third solicitor wrote - I guess she was hawking round the freebies getting what she could.

    Her parents had contributed £9k towards the £21k cost of essential roof repair and replacement windows, but all regular bills/shopping were split 50/50. So to be fair, I offered to give her £13k, which is £4k more than the entire tangible amount she put into the house. I calculated that this gives her a total in-kind benefit of over £50k given that no rent, mortgage or deposit was paid by her in 8 years, and would settle it with no need for future animosity. This is also the very maximum I could possibly raise via loans without remortgaging or selling the house.

    It went quiet for a long time. In fact, we actually functioned quite well for a year, coming in for coffee when swapping over, going to parents evenings together.
    Then suddenly in January 2019, a recorded letter arrived on Saturday. It was dated as being written the previous Saturday, not posted until the Friday after, and gave me an arbitary 21 days to agree to pay £50k, to be paid within 56 days, or he'd force sale the house and divide 50/50 (note that this has dropped £10k from the original demand).

    EFFECTS:
    • She knows option 1 is not viable - far from having any savings, I sunk literally everything into the house and have nearly £15k personal debt, so this this basically gives me no choice but to sell the house either way
    • This would kick both myself and my 8 year old son out of our home since his birth, where he lives 50% of the time and loves it here
    • I have my sole source of income here (small recording studio).

    FACTS
    • Her solicitor is accusing me of not engaging in mediation. That's demonstrably not true.
    • She earns considerably more than me but has contributed < £300 in child maintenance in 3 years since leaving.
    • She's contributed nothing towards any bills relating to the property since leaving.

    OPTIONS suggested so far:
    • I could consider an application under the children act.
    • Or "Schedule 1 - property adjustment order", but apparently this could be reverted when he's 18?

    The letter was timed to arrive when she knew full well that I was on business in South Wales the week after it arrived, which effectively gave me 10 working days to get my head round it.
    I consider all of the above, including the original solicitor's advice, to be unreasonable. What are my options?

    ---------------------

    End of proposed narrative.
    Tags: None

  • #2
    Peridot

    Comment


    • #3
      Hi Dazed,
      It must be really tough for you. I'm afraid you are right it sounds like you are going to need some legal advice for this.

      Just to clarify at the outset you had intended that the property would be for all of you although you paid the majority of the deposit legal fees etc and her parents contributed £9k towards the purchase price. You have then divided the bills equally? The property was set up as joint tenants so if something happened to one of you the property would pass automatically to the other. No Deed was entered into that gave an indication that the property would be held as tenants in common with you receiving your deposit back and then the equity left once fees etc were paid would be divided.

      Have you checked the land registry information. It can be obtained here and would be handy to take with you to the forthcoming appointment:- https://www.gov.uk/search-property-i...-land-registry

      So for 8 years your ex contributed to the property bills.
      Since you split in 2016 have you had 50/50 arrangements as far as your child is concerned? It is good that you have managed to keep the arrangements stable for your son. This is often the hardest bit and can so easily deteriorate with parties becoming so entrenched in the other aspects of their breakup the children can so easily become pawns. As far as child maintenance is concerned I am unsure why you believe you are entitled to any payment if you are sharing the care equally have you checked the CSA payment calculator which you can find here:- https://www.gov.uk/calculate-your-child-maintenance Any payment on the basis of earnings also takes account of the amount of time you have the child.

      Has mediation been offered? It is sensible to consider using mediation to try and bash out an agreement. As you have been advised the cost of going to Court whether as a Children Act application or ToLATA can be significant as well as the possible costs risks to the unsuccessful party having to potentially pay the other sides costs in addition to their own.

      It would seem that as you indicated previously the £9k would be correct to return to her as her parents contributed this to the purchase price. Then the argument is what equity has been achieved in the 8 year period while she was living there. That equity (once any mortgage and potential legal fees are deducted) could then be divided 50/50 to find a figure that would appear fair to then offer to settle matters.

      Any lawyer your ex sees will also be advising her of the risks of litigation. That may be why she has had several lawyers as they have advised the costs of pushing this through court may make it inadvisable to bring a claim?

      Mediation to try and reach an agreement would be the most sensible option initially in my view. She will have come in at the top figure although how she has calculated that figure is anyone's guess. It may be possible to agree a sensible sum that is fair and how that sum would be paid.
      Any agreement reached can be set down in a legally binding document.

      If not then a Court application may be necessary. A property adjustment order may be the only way you can pay any sum due (that is fairly calculated) if you are unable to obtain the amount needed at this point but once your son is 18yrs your situation may be different. It is a way in the future yet.

      Sorry we can't provide a perfect answer there are options as you have discovered and they should be explored but in the first instance I think engaging in negotiations whether through lawyers or at mediation would be the best starting point.

      Here if you need any more guidance or support.

      I am a qualified solicitor employed by the LegalBeagles forum to provide guidance on a wide range of legal queries. I am happy to try and assist informally, where needed.

      Any posts I make on LegalBeagles are for information and discussion purposes only and shouldn't be seen as legal advice. Any practical advice I give is without liability. I do not represent people on the forum.

      If in doubt you should always seek professional face to face legal advice.

      Comment


      • #4
        Thanks Peridot, your detailed reply is greatly appreciated.

        To clarify, I paid 100% of the purchase money - bought the property outright. Paid the fees, the deposit, the stamp duty. All of it.

        "A property adjustment order may be the only way you can pay any sum due (that is fairly calculated)"

        Now, this is basically the whole matter in a nutshell - "fairly calculated". If we had paid 50/50, then of course, we should split 50/50 after any fees and losses.
        Or, if we had paid 70/30, then 70/30 it should be. That would be someone's fair and equitable interest in the value.

        However, it is 95/5%. And the house, far from increasing, at this point time in this area, is actually worth the same as when purchased, despite renovations at my expense (again, remembering her £9k).
        So I would already be losing significantly, AND I have at least £5,000 per year extra to find as I am living on my own with my son.
        And to make matters even worse, I sunk every single thing I had into buying the house, and to make it possible, when my parent's learnt they were getting a grandson, they "paid forward" what I would have got in inheritance. I've got, and put, everything I am every going to get or have into that house.
        And now not only does it look like I might lose my home, and I will lose not only on any forced sale at this point in time, but also potentially lose 50% to someone because of what I thought it was the right thing to do for someone who I loved, and, it turns out, lied to me. And all of it on the advice of a solicitor I was paying to protect me!

        When someone promises, in a solicitor's office, that they would "never take me for anything" if they left, could that ever stand up? Could a polygraph test be used? Because she either lied to me back then, or she would be lying to the court if she said she didn't say it. Is that a possible avenue to explore?

        THAT is what really brings the fight out in my spirit - it's the appalling abuse of trust. I have been told that property courts cannot take "matters of the heart" like this into account, but isn't it extraordinary - apparently lying to extort someone out of their and their own son's home can't be considered as offensive by a court, but if I were to tell a joke that was overheard by a third party who thought it might offend a non-present 4th party, I could potentially be arrested (not that I have!).

        "Mediation to try and reach an agreement would be the most sensible option initially in my view."

        The first mediator was completely useless and simply spent 45 minutes reflecting back what we had each said. I could have recorded on my phone and played back for same effect. The second mediator was doing it for free, but apparently had his own issues as well. After about 3 months of talking psychobabble on the phone to us, he suddenly announced he had mental health issues and had to drop it.
        Third mediator's opening gambit to me was: "If you're not prepared to pay a substantial sum to [her], then this isn't suitable for mediation". When I asked her to explain what mediation was, she said "Pay me £90 and I'll explain over a 30 minute phone call". I didn't consider this very professional to be charging £180 an hour to explain what it is they do!

        So, there you have it - hopefully that fills a gap! A couple more days until my solicitor's appointment, so if anyone can think of anything else, I'm all ears and eyes. And also extremely grateful for the assistance so far.

        Thank you.

        Comment


        • #5
          Hi again,
          Oh dear I see why you are a bit cynical about mediation. It really sounds like you've had a pretty bad experience. I hope I wasn't giving the impression your ex should receive 50% as I really don't think that is the case at all. I suppose at the risk of setting the cat among the pigeons maybe at the time of the purchase she did mean what she said. Things change though and we then have to deal with the fall out.

          I can't see that the Court's would award her 50% after contributing to the bills for 8 years and your having purchased the property outright. Just checking there is no mortgage on the property? I suspect the only comeback you have is you did purchase the property and on solicitor's advice went in a joint tenants. Is there a potential professional negligence claim against the solicitors here that could be looked into?

          If you consider what a deed of trust would have looked like had you been tenants in common that would be your best starting point for negotiating I would suggest. So for example if you paid 100% you retain that sum plus 50% of any increase in the property value since the purchase. You would of course need a property valuation carried out but this may help visualise the figures (or not) then you have the £9k to offer as a 'sweetener'

          It may be advisable to have a solicitor prepare an offer letter and see what happens. Unfortunately if she brings a claim all you can do is defend it and present the facts as they are.
          I am a qualified solicitor employed by the LegalBeagles forum to provide guidance on a wide range of legal queries. I am happy to try and assist informally, where needed.

          Any posts I make on LegalBeagles are for information and discussion purposes only and shouldn't be seen as legal advice. Any practical advice I give is without liability. I do not represent people on the forum.

          If in doubt you should always seek professional face to face legal advice.

          Comment


          • #6
            Thanks again - OK, major update since last night. The police are involved, and I believe her solicitor is being unreasonable.
            Apologies for the square brackets where I've done a "find and replace" - I keep notes of everything that happens, but this being a public forum, I need to remove names etc!

            First letter written by [her solicitor] on Saturday 19th January, but not posted until Friday the 25th January, and received by me via recorded delivery on Saturday 26th January.
            My response was emailed on Monday 28th January, including request for date clarification

            [her solicitor] replied the same day with "If it assists I am sure that my client would be content for the 21 days (actual not working) to start from Saturday"
            I replied same day with "Which Saturday? The one it was written, or the one it was posted? Please provide a specific date when the 21 days ends
            "

            28 Jan 2019
            I emailed her and the solicitor with the following:
            I am prepared to make you an offer which takes account of ALL your financial contributions, and more, of £13,000.
            £13k also happens to be the most I could raise as a loan, so you could have it within a month. This is in return for your signing a TR1 form which transfers the property paid for 100% in full, back to me, and fulfils the addendum to the deeds and our verbal agreement made during the signing of the deeds.


            It then went totally quiet - I said nothing at all. I heard nothing from her or her solicitor.

            4th Feb 2018 (7 days later) for the first time ever, she asked "are you OK?", via WhatsApp. I replied (unfortunately not having slept well):
            Thank you for asking but no, not really. I have no idea what is going on. The post has been today and there has been nothing from [her solicitor] since an email last Monday.

            So what is going on? Is the clock ticking or what? His original letter and reply to me last Monday is riddled with inconsistencies and he can't even spell your name right. I hope you're not paying him much.
            So I really don't know - things hangs over me every minute of every day. And at some point, there's a choice which is entirely in your own hands.
            Do I fully engage a solicitor and destroy both our lives in the process costing at least £40,000 and taking that from [our son's] future?

            Or are you prepared to settle for what is actually WAY more than you put into the house. It's now been a week, the postie has been - what is going on?


            7 Feb 2019, 08:39 - No response. I emailed her solicitor again.
            "Can you please address the question of the dates - I have asked for clarification 3 times now and cannot respond further until I have this."


            Fri, 8 Feb, 11:45
            Still no reply, so I called the solicitor to get both an answer on the offer and clarification on the date:
            "Is [her solicitor] in?"
            "I'll just put you through to his secretary"
            "Hi, Can I speak to [her solicitor] please?"
            "What's it about?" - I explained.
            "He's not in the office today, he's got a day's vacation".


            I explained that his refusal to answer the date question was unreasonable, and that I was contacting the SRA (I hadn't yet).
            She said she'd tell him on Monday.
            15 minutes later, a person who wasn't in the office sent an email from an office he wasn't in, clarifying the date. It just said:

            Fri, 8 Feb, 12:04
            "If it assist you I can explicitly state 4pm on the 18th of February 2019".

            And then it all goes quiet....

            11th Feb, 8PM, I get a call from the police. They say they've had a complaint from her that day about my contacting her directly (a week previous - when I had no reply from her solicitor).
            Yes, her solicitor had said "don't contact her, only deal with me". Well, I had tried!
            Then the bombshell came - the PC said: "Because the complainant considers this to be harassment, we will be formally questioning you. We can provider a duty solicitor if you require one, but if you do not attend you may be arrested".
            Bear in mind I've not had a parking ticket in 10 years, a point on my licence in 20, and I've never been arrested before, I was properly in shock. I slept just under 2 hours last night.
            They wanted to see me today - I said "no can do, but NEXT Wednesday?", which I was a little surprised that they agreed to. Clearly they don't see it as THAT urgent! This gives me time to cool off and mention it to my solicitor tomorrow.

            So now it's a whole new level that I feel to be unreasonable:
            • The solicitor backdating the letter and refusing to be clear about the dates
            • the timescale given
            • the delays in replying
            • the impossible deadlines
            • the timing of all of this to ALWAYS be when I am either down to have my son in the diary, or she can see in the diary that I have a work appointment.
            • and now the ridiculous nonsense with the police because I tried to make a reasonable offer directly

            Is the solicitor behaving reasonably? Is this worth a complaint to the SRA? I've barely done any work this week, I'm sleep deprived, I'm extremely concerned, I'm doing the best I can for my son in the circumstances, someone I trusted is trying to extort my own home from me with a lie, and somehow I'm the one having to be questions in a police station?! I am genuinely totally confused and at a loss. What has this world come to?

            Comment


            • #7
              Is it the 4th Feb WhatsApp message that the 'harassment' complaint is about?
              “We may not win by protesting, but if we don’t protest we will lose. If we stand up to them, there is always a chance we will win.” Hetty Bower

              Any support I provide is offered without liability, if you are unsure please seek professional legal guidance.

              Received a Court Claim? Read >>>>> First Steps

              If we have helped you we'd appreciate it if you can leave a review on our Trust Pilot page

              Find Solicitors offering fixed fees on our sister site - JustBeagle.com

              Comment


              • #8
                Yes - which I'm particularly irked about because her solicitor had no responded.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Maybe mention she contacted you first then.... I'm going to tag des8 as I'm sure he'll tell you to make sure you have the duty sol with you for the interview. The Solicitor may have advised her having a non-mol order / harrassment charge against you might help her financial claim - plus her Sol might be a bit naffed off you weren't too complimentary...lol

                  See what your solicitor says about things and don't resort to playing games in response.

                  “We may not win by protesting, but if we don’t protest we will lose. If we stand up to them, there is always a chance we will win.” Hetty Bower

                  Any support I provide is offered without liability, if you are unsure please seek professional legal guidance.

                  Received a Court Claim? Read >>>>> First Steps

                  If we have helped you we'd appreciate it if you can leave a review on our Trust Pilot page

                  Find Solicitors offering fixed fees on our sister site - JustBeagle.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Hi there
                    Yes, do not attend without a solicitor in tow.
                    Preferably yours if he is available, but failing that at least the duty solicitor.

                    If she is alleging harassment and cites that WhatsApp message as evidence you seem to have a defence in " that in the particular circumstances the pursuit of the course of conduct was reasonable" (Protection from Harassment Act 1997 Sec 1 (3) (c) .https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1997/40/section/1)

                    The police probably won't take any further action, but be warned they might issue an harassment warning.
                    There need to be at least two separate occasions of conduct which, together, can be said to amount to harassment. This is where the apparent need for a harassment warning comes in – a single act on its own cannot amount to a "course of conduct" within the meaning of the PHA, but it can be enough for a harassment warning to be issued.
                    The problem is that the warning, whilst not a conviction or even a charge, remains on the record and could be disclosed on an enhanced DBS.

                    Now the police quite possibly won't tell you that, or just skate over it. For them it is time saving to deal with the incident with a warning and not do a proper in depth investigation. There is no appeal from a warning (except perhaps a judicial review) although a complaint could be made to the force or IPCC.

                    Hence I always recommend being accompanied by a solicitor

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Thank you so much, everyone. This thing about the DBS could be a REAL problem, because I currently have an enhanced one for working alone with children, as I sometimes go in to the school and volunteer a couple of hours on occasional afternoons because, despite their teacher training training, I seem to be the only person in town who can actually make the tablets they use for some Key Stage 2 IT stuff!

                      I have the solicitor's appointment this afternoon, and then a week to get my head around the police interview.

                      PS - the solicitor is a she - not met yet, and I know it shouldn't matter at all, but I've been told this might help in court (that's not why I chose her - didn't know who I was going to be allocated!).

                      Deep breath - I can do this, and probably a lot better with the excellent help here. Will let you know later what happened! Thanks again.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        OK, I've had the initial meeting. Don't really want to go into TOO much depth as this is a public forum, but there are a couple of avenues to explore.
                        And also, my solicitor said the 21 days thing was ridiculous and would immediately look to pause that. Nothing heard since meeting on Wednesday.
                        Will update if any news, but I'm feeling a lot more positive and hopeful since then!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Good to hear you feel you have some more positive options and have your solicitor in your corner xx
                          “We may not win by protesting, but if we don’t protest we will lose. If we stand up to them, there is always a chance we will win.” Hetty Bower

                          Any support I provide is offered without liability, if you are unsure please seek professional legal guidance.

                          Received a Court Claim? Read >>>>> First Steps

                          If we have helped you we'd appreciate it if you can leave a review on our Trust Pilot page

                          Find Solicitors offering fixed fees on our sister site - JustBeagle.com

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Well, I just had the police interview. Solicitor turned up 30 minutes late, interview scheduled for 12 didn't start until 12:45, went on until just after 2.

                            I just feel utterly destroyed by the whole process - they kept saying I wasn't charged, arrested or anything like that, but it was in a custody block FFS; just made to feel like a criminal. Took me half of yesterday to write my statement, most of today is gone driving to the town they wanted to see me.

                            EDITED TO ADD: They referred to a PIN I had been sent saying not to contact her, which I didn't until the "give me cash or move out" letter arrived. However, the PIN was unsigned and undated, and I just notice it says "RESTRICTED - WHEN COMPLETE". But is it valid if not dated? In other words, their case is that they said in the PIN that "if you were to continue contacting, then you may be liable for arrest and prosecution". But with no date on it... hmmmm....

                            Free solicitor basically just told me what the officer told me, and only intervened once to point out that writing an email in itself isn't an offence. Don't know if that's a good or bad thing.

                            The other thing is that it's been over a week since I saw my solicitor. Should I have heard something by now? I don't want to phone or email, given that they explained that every time they open an email or answer the phone, it's £24 inc VAT, which is nearly twice what I earn in an hour! All she said was "leave it with me and we'll contact her solicitor". No timescale was given, but I was hoping for more by now
                            Last edited by dazed; 21st February 2019, 14:24:PM. Reason: Added undated PIN info

                            Comment

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