Unmarried Couples: Your rights when living together

Family in a park discussing the future as a family

Cohabiting couples make up the fastest growing family type. However, the law does not recognise these couples in the same way as those who are married or in a civil relationship.

  • Today cohabiting couples represent 1 in every 5 families in the UK
  • One in two cohabiting couples have dependent children – that’s 1.25 million families.

You may have lived together for a number of years, or have dependent children.   Did you know that you are not legally recognised as a couple, and that it will be very difficult to make a claim for a share in the family home or your partner’s finances if you split?

Nearly half [46%] of adults in England and Wales mistakenly think that couples acquire “common law rights and are in a common law marriage” after living together for a certain amount of time or having children together. This is a total misconception.

When unmarried parties live together it is common for one party to give up work to care for the children or an elderly relative. However, without a written agreement the court will not make your ex-partner support you financially.

The law discriminates between a married and unmarried couple:

  • When married couples separate the law enables them to divide property and finances in a manner that is fair and reasonable.
  • When unmarried couples separate, even if they have dependent children together, the partners do not have the same rights.

What can we do at Bromleys to help you?

If you intend to stay together it is always worth taking precautions to protect yourself.

If marriage or a civil partnership is not an option, there are other ways that Bromleys can help to ensure that you and your partner are protected:

  • Cohabitation Agreements – This an agreement that sets out your joint intentions for things such as finances, property and arrangements for the children.
  • Declaration of Trust – This document sets out your clear intentions on how you want to own a property and in what shares, and covers what happens if you split up in the future.
  • Wills – if one partner in an unmarried relationship dies, the other does not have an automatic right to inherit your share of the property or possessions, without this being included in a Will.

Keith Bull, who is head of the Family Law Department at Bromleys Solicitors LLP, is an Assessor and accredited Family Law Specialist by a national organisation known as Resolution to advise married couples on financial disputes. Keith has a wealth of experience in this area as he has been qualified as a Family Law solicitor for 30 years.

Keith is also an Accredited Family Specialist in financial; children and domestic abuse cases and can be contacted on 0161 330 6821 for a free 30 minute initial consultation.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article