Unmarried couples

We understand unmarried couples...

Common law marriage is a myth. If you're not married or in a civil partnership, the law on property rights and financial settlements on legal separation is completely different.

Contrary to popular belief, living together in a personal relationship doesn't automatically give you the right to make any financial claims against each other if you split up.

If a marriage or civil partnership breaks down, the law on divorce and dissolution allows financial settlements to be tailored to the particular circumstances of you and the family. Assets that belong to only one of you can be transferred to the other, jointly owned assets can be shared unequally and maintenance orders made. There is the flexibility take into account all of the circumstances and needs of the couple with the aim being to achieve a fair outcome.

This doesn't apply to cohabiting couples who are going their separate ways, even if they've been together years and have children. Broadly speaking, fairness doesn't come into it. Instead couples are left trying to pick their way through a minefield of complicated and outdated property and trust laws. This can leave unmarried partners facing costly disputes and financial hardship when their relationship ends.

Cohabitation is the fastest growing type of family relationship. Most people now live together at least for a time before they get married. More and more choose not to marry at all.

We are experts in the law surrounding unmarried couples. Tensions inevitably run high at the end of a relationship but if you're separating, we understand how to guide you through the complex issues, constructively and with as little conflict as possible. The law for cohabitants may be different to divorce but the emotional impact of separation is the same.

Specialists in children work

If you have children, you want to make sure that they are put first and properly cared and provided for. Whether or not you're married doesn't change that. This is why the legal position around the arrangements for children when unmarried couples separate is essentially the same. We will talk to you about how mediation, collaborative practice or arbitration may help to achieve the right outcome for you where a court battle might not.

Although the simple fact of living together doesn't give separating cohabitants any automatic financial rights against each other, child maintenance is treated separately. Regular maintenance will be payable usually in line with the Child Maintenance Service formula (previously Child Support Agency or CSA). If there are high earnings, the court can order additional payments over and above the CMS maximum. If there is any disagreement about private school fees, the court can order these to be paid. We have many years of experience advising on these issues.

Financial certainty for you and your family

Our family lawyers also regularly prepare cohabitation agreements so that you can decide at the beginning of your relationship or during it what you want to happen financially if things unfortunately go wrong later. 



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