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Unmarried Couples

The legal position for unmarried partners on cohabitation, separation or death can be radically different to that of a married couple.

The misconception of ‘common law marriage’ automatically triggering certain legal rights is common, and potentially damaging. In reality, neither partner has mandatory rights or entitlements if the relationship breaks down or the other partner dies – regardless of the length of that relationship.

With that in mind, it’s vital to seek specialist legal advice on cohabitation or separation, so you can ensure your position is fully protected.

What happens if a relationship breaks down, or one of the partners passes away?

In either case, neither party is automatically entitled to anything that belonged to the other partner, even if the relationship was a long one or there are children to consider. In other words, it can be a tricky situation if you’re not prepared for it.

Our specialist Cohabitation team offers tailor-made legal advice for cohabiting couples who are separating, or simply wish to plan ahead so they can ensure their partners and any children are financially secure following their death.

Our specialist lawyers can expertly advise on:

  • your rights regarding cohabitation, and the preparation of Cohabitation Agreements
  • asset protection, protecting contributions to a property, types of property ownership and protecting your property from claims by an unmarried partner
  • protecting monetary gifts to children/grandchildren
  • unmarried separation, separation disputes and the preparation of Separation Agreements
  • disputes over parties’ interests in a property and establishing an interest in property in the sole name of another
  • claiming provision from an unmarried partner’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975

Separation Reports

As well as advising you in person, by phone or by video call, we can also provide bespoke Separation Reports. These are substantive documents, covering:

  • your current legal position
  • your rights in relation to any solely or jointly owned properties
  • the claims available to you, including claims in respect of children
  • the civil court process, including mediation and how costs are managed in the civil court
  • our suggested next steps
  • all the documents required to offer you certainty and security for the future.

Our Cohabitation team specialises solely in advising unmarried individuals on cohabitation, asset protection and separation.

Disputes between unmarried couples are dealt with in the Civil Court (unlike divorce, which is dealt with in the Family Court) and so feature entirely different legal procedures and cost implications. Many family practitioners are simply not familiar with the rules and procedures of the Civil Court, and advise unmarried individuals more as a ‘side line’ to the divorce-related matters they typically deal with.

Our Cohabitation specialists are civil practitioners with extensive experience working within the Civil Procedure Rules – so you’re in the best possible hands from both legal and tactical perspectives. This can be crucial, as if a party doesn’t comply with strict Civil Procedure Rules, they may be liable for their partner’s costs as well as their own – even if ultimately successful in their claim.

Take friendly expert advice as soon as possible

It’s important to take professional advice early, so you can plan ahead more effectively and with greater reassurance. It’s also highly advisable to review arrangements regularly, to ensure they match your circumstances.

What about financial claims regarding children?

If you’d like advice relating to contact arrangements, or to a dispute over caring for your children, our Children’s team can help.

There are potential financial claims relating to children from the relationship, which ensure they’re properly housed following a separation. To find out more, visit our finances for children page.

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