We Are Living Together But Not Married – What Rights Do We Have?
Unmarried couples are treated very differently by the law from their married counterparts or civil partners. Despite often having a relationship akin to a marriage, unmarried couples living together are treated by the law as mere ‘cohabitees’. Consequently, our family law solicitors are often approached by unmarried clients asking, ‘We are living together but not married – what rights do I have?’
Here, our family law experts give a brief overview of the rights of unmarried couples living together. Often, the extent of an individual’s rights will depend on their circumstances, so it is important to take legal advice from experienced family solicitors, like ours, who will thoroughly assess your situation and advise accordingly.
“Very informative and clear. The Solicitor fully understood out requirements. Everything was completed to our satisafaction in a suitable timeframe. The service and the delivery of the service was exemplary. First class from all concerned. It was apparent from the first meeting that we had chosen well in approaching Simper Law. First class knowledge and customer care at all times. Very attentative, helpful and efficient.”
We Are Living Together But Not Married – What Rights Do I Have Over Any Property?
Our clients are often surprised to learn that if they do not legally own the house they live in with their partner, they have no legal entitlement to it or to remain living there if the relationship ends. Whilst spouses and civil partners are protected by the Matrimonial Homes legislation, which prevents them from being forced to leave the house until their divorce or dissolution is finalised, the protection does not extend to unmarried couples. So, despite having potentially lived in the house for a considerable time and considering it ‘home’, the partner who does not legally own the house may be forced to leave in the event of a breakup.
Sometimes, however, the law will assist a person who can prove they have a ‘beneficial interest’ in the property. For it to do so, a claim must be made under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act, known as ‘TOLATA’.
TOLATA claims are decided on the basis of the parties’ intentions rather than what a Judge considers fair. The person bringing the claim (the Claimant) must convince the Judge that the couple had intended the property to belong to both partners, regardless of the legal position. For example, if the Claimant can prove that they paid the mortgage or funded home improvements to the house, a Judge may consider that the parties must have understood it to be owned jointly since it would be unusual for a person to contribute significantly to a property to which they had no entitlement.
We Are Living Together But Not Married – What Rights Do I Have Over Our Children?
If a child’s parents are unmarried, the law grants sole parental responsibility to the mother unless the father jointly registers the birth and is named on the birth certificate or is granted parental responsibility through agreement with the mother or by Court Order.
If you have parental responsibility, you have the right to be involved in any important decisions regarding your child. Crucially, however, you are not automatically entitled to see or spend time with your child. If your ex-partner does not allow you access, you must apply for a ‘Child Arrangements Order’ from the Court. The Court will usually grant access to both parents save in exceptional circumstances.
We Are Living Together But Not Married – What Rights Do I Have To Ongoing Financial Support If We Separate?
Spouses and civil partners sometimes have continuing financial obligations towards each other when their relationship breaks down. The same does not apply to unmarried couples. When they separate, neither partner is entitled to ongoing financial support. Of course, both partners remain financially responsible for any children they have together.
We Are Living Together But Not Married – What Rights Do I Have If My Partner Dies?
The death of a long-term partner can be an incredibly traumatic experience. The stress can intensify when the remaining partner learns that they have no legal entitlement to their loved one’s Estate.
If the deceased did not leave a Will, their assets will be distributed according to the rules of intestacy, which dictate the order of beneficiaries. Since the deceased was not married, any children will be first in line to inherit the Estate. If they had no children, their parents are next, followed by their siblings, half-siblings, grandparents and various other family members until, in the absence of any relatives, the Estate goes to the Crown.
The surviving partner may be able to claim ‘reasonable financial provision’ from the Estate. This type of claim can be tricky and, even if successful, entitles the surviving partner only to a level of support required for their maintenance.
How We Can Help If You Are Living Together But Not Married
Our family law specialists have extensive experience in assisting unmarried couples to organise their affairs and protect their interests in the event of a relationship breakdown or their partner’s death.
Cohabitation Agreements provide a convenient, cost-effective way for unmarried couples to bridge the gaps in the law. A couple can document their intentions regarding issues such as next of kin rights and ownership of the family home in case of a split. Our family law solicitors have prepared countless Cohabitation Agreements and will work closely with you to prepare a comprehensive agreement that accurately reflects your intentions and is legally enforceable.
The legal position under the intestacy rules renders making a Will particularly pertinent for unmarried couples. In the absence of a Will, your loved one will have no entitlement to your assets when you die. We have a team of expert Wills and Probate solicitors who will draft a watertight Will that gives you and your partner peace of mind that they will be looked after when you are no longer here.
If your relationship breaks down, our family solicitors will consider your legal position and advise on any options open to you regarding your children, the family home and other pertinent issues. We understand that a relationship breakdown can be extremely stressful, and we will guide you through the process carefully and with empathy. We avoid litigation wherever possible, instead seeking a resolution through negotiation or other proven alternative dispute resolution methods such as mediation. Whatever course of action you choose, we will ensure the matter is dealt with as swiftly and cost-effectively as possible to allow you to focus on the future.
“I was delighted by the prompt response and the friendly helpful service we received. Thank you.”