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JR Jones Solicitors Birmingham
solicitors Birmingham

Unmarried Couples Legal Rights / Cohabiting Couples

Many people live together without getting married. In the event of a separation it is critical to know what your legal rights are in relationcontact us to your children, property and finances.

We have outlined below some of these rights, however you should always seek legal advice. Please contact us for a consultation.

The “Common Law Husband” & “Common Law Wife” Myth

It is a popular misconception that if a couple live together they will automatically have certain rights by being a ‘common law wife’ or ‘common law husband’. There is no basis in law for this in English law; there is no such thing as a ‘common law wife’ or husband.

Unmarried Couples - Finances

When you separate from your partner the law treats you as two separate individuals. This means that financial assets such as bank accounts, savings or investments will remain in the ownership of whoever’s name they are in. Any assets held in joint names will generally be divided equally.

Generally you cannot claim financial maintenance from a partner in the same way that a married person may be able to do so.

However, if there are children from the relationship, then the parent the children live with will be able to claim child maintenance for the children.

Please see our page of child maintenance for more information.

Unmarried Couples - Property

For many couples, the biggest asset they will own is a property, which may be in joint names. If the property is held in joint names then it will usually be divided equally between the couple. Often, one person is able to buy the other one out of the property by paying for the half share of the equity in the property. (The equity is the difference between the value of the property and any outstanding mortgage or loans secured on it, ie. the part that is owned outright.) If it is not possible then the property will have to be sold so that each partner can obtain their share of the equity.

If the property is held in the sole name of one person then the situation becomes more complex. The starting point in sole ownership situations is that the person whose name the property is in will retain full ownership. However, when the person whose name is not on the property has contributed financially to it, perhaps by means of mortgage payments, purchase deposit or paying for improvements to the property - there may have been some form of agreement between the couple that the property was meant to be jointly owned even though the legalities of changing the property title were not undertaken.

In this case that person, in conjunction with their solicitor, needs to justify that they are entitled to a share of the property. This will usually involve going to Court.

Please contact us for a consultation if you are in this situation.

Unmarried Couples - Children

The most important issue to resolve when a couple separate who the children will live with and what contact they will have with the other parent.

It is important for both parents to have regular contact with their children, but in cases of unmarried couples the rights, in particular of fathers can be more complex.

Please see our pages on child living arrangements, child maintenance and unmarried father’s rights for more detailed information, or contact us for a consultation.