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Unmarried couples and relationship breakdown

Contrary to popular belief unmarried couples have very little protection and legal rights under English law.

It is thought that six out of ten unmarried couples believe that they are the “common law” husband or wife of their partner. The concept of “common law marriage” is a myth and is not recognised by the family courts. This means that unmarried couples have few financial claims against each other.

If you are unmarried, you may have the following questions:

  • What financial claims, if any, do I have against my partner?
  • If the family home has to be sold what interest, if any, do I have in the proceeds of sale?
  • Will I get to stay in the family home?
  • What will happen to our children and will my partner have to pay child maintenance?

Rayden Solicitors will guide you through the answers to those questions and ascertain either what you are entitled to or what your financial responsibilities to your partner may be.

The law does not entitle an unmarried person to financial claims against their partner on the breakdown of their relationship in the way that it does for a married couple or those in a civil partnership.

The law will treat you as two unrelated individuals. It will be necessary to look to other areas of the law to see what you may be entitled to and to ensure that, so far as the law allows, your needs are met.

The family home

Most disputes between unmarried couples arise over the ownership of a shared home. Even if the family home is in one party’s sole name, you may still have an interest in the equity if you have made a contribution to that property. The court looks to establish if you have made a financial contribution or they may consider whether you can show that there was an agreement that you were to have an interest in the property.

Applications to court where one person believes that the legal title to a property does not reflect the true ownership can be complex and costly. The most sensible way forward is to have the property valued and to negotiate a formula for the calculation of the respective shares in the property. Rayden Solicitors are best placed to assist you in this process.

If a party has made no contribution to the family home, they may still be entitled to receive financial assistance in terms of the provision of a home if they have a minor child of the family living with them. These rights come from “Schedule 1 of the Children Act”.

Rayden Solicitors will also advise upon the rights of either party to carry on living in the family home together with strategies that will enable you to achieve the best option for you.

Read our blog posts to learn more about legal rights of cohabiting couples and unmarried couple’s rights with property division.

Your children

If you and your partner have children and you separate, the parent with care is entitled to child maintenance from the non-resident parent. The amount of maintenance payable will depend on the number of children you have and your partner’s income.

In cases where there are sufficient assets or income, it is possible to make an application in law for housing to be provided for a child, as well as additional maintenance or for payments to cover school fees.

The future

There has been some discussion as to whether the law relating to unmarried couples is likely to change in the near future to give unmarried couples greater rights to financial provision on separation. Rayden Solicitors support the efforts of Resolution in pushing forward a private members bill in this regard.

Rayden Solicitors is committed to equality and diversity and in doing so supports and advises all members of our community.

Legal Rights for Unmarried Couples FAQs

Do unmarried couples have rights in the UK?

Unmarried couples have very limited rights in the UK under current law. The law treats two unmarried people as unrelated individuals meaning that inheritance proceedings can be made very difficult and financial claims are only possible in limited circumstances.

What are the rights of a father not married?

If a child was born on or after 1 December 2003 and has unmarried parents, the child’s father has the same parental rights and responsibilities as if the parents were married, only if he is named on the birth certificate.  It allows him to spend time with the child and have a say in their life, whilst also ensuring they pay child maintenance in the event of separation.

Can you sell a house if one partner refuses?

If one partner refuses to sell a property that was jointly owned in the event of a separation, the partner who wants to sell it can apply to the court to force the sale of the property dependent on a number of conditions. Rayden Solicitors has expertise in property law and can offer in-depth advice in this situation.

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