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Unmarried Couples – What are your rights?


Many unmarried couples believe that they have the same rights as married couples; no such protection exists. Some believe that they are common law husband or wives. Despite the popular belief in common law marriage, there is no such thing.

This may be bad news for unmarried couples who are experiencing a relationship breakdown. They often find themselves in a vulnerable position when their relationship breaks down. To help those in this situation, we set out our guidance below:

If you get married then you acquire certain rights and protection. However, if you are simply living together as a couple, you have no such protection – no matter that some relationships often last longer than marriages.

This means that if you are together and share a property and children, you may be put in a very vulnerable position when things go wrong. When a relationship breaks down, it is essential to obtain legal advice at the earliest opportunity.

Many believe that they will have acquired rights to their partner’s assets after being in a relationship for a certain amount of time. This is not always the case. Regardless of the length of the relationship, you will not always be entitled to any of your partner’s pension or any financial support such as maintenance. This would not be the case if you were married.

Also, if the family home is in your partner’s sole name, then this could put you in an extremely vulnerable position. If the relationship breaks down you might not be entitled to a share of the property and worse still, left homeless. The law in relation to property is very complicated and this is why it is important to seek advice at the earliest opportunity. If you are considering to financially contribute to your partner’s property (or if you are considering buying a property together) a professionally drawn agreement known as a ‘Declaration of Trust’ can protect your interest. We are able to assist in dealing with this even if the property has already been purchased.

If you separate and children are involved, you may require financial support from your former partner. The law that applies to married couples does not apply to unmarried couples. In these circumstances there is a complex set of rules and procedures that apply. Getting legal advice in this instance is highly recommended.

If you are at the start of a relationship, obtaining legal advice when you move in with your partner can also help protect your legal position. Whilst it might not seem like the most romantic prospect, we can assist in protecting your legal rights. Some couples consider a ‘Cohabitation Agreement’ which sets out the terms for them living together and for any separation. Should sadly your relationship breakdown, you will each know where you stand. This can make it easier for both parties to move on.

We must make you aware that unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples. If your relationship has broken down we strongly recommend that you obtain informed legal advice from a qualified and experienced lawyer. These decisions can have a large impact on your future life.

Contact us on this or any family law related issue.  We are here to help.

Lisa Nesbitt  Specialist in Unmarried Couples/Divorce Law

Email:  family@andrewisaacs.co.uk
Telephone:  01302 349 480
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