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If you and your partner live together but are not married or in a civil partnership, you are one of millions of cohabiting couples in England and Wales. Couples are now more likely than ever to live together before (or instead of) getting married.
But are you aware of your legal rights as a cohabiting couple? It is important to know because, contrary to common belief, you do not have as many rights as married or civil partnership couples.
At Roythornes, our committed team of family law solicitors can help you safeguard your financial interests and the security of your future. We provide detailed cohabitation advice to couples who come to us from across Nottingham for the high quality of our services and legal expertise.
Our service includes expert advice about Cohabitation Agreements – an agreement you can enter into with your partner about how you will divide and arrange your finances upon separation. We can also provide specialist dispute resolution services in cohabitation disputes upon relationship breakdown, whether you have a Cohabitation Agreement in place or not.
What rights do unmarried couples have?
Many people are still under the impression that couples who live together for a long time but are not married or in a civil partnership are legally considered to be “common law married”.
This is just a myth. Married couples and civil partners have many legal rights but, unfortunately, they do not extend to unmarried couples. For example:
- Money and property upon relationship breakdown – if you break up, there is no legal requirement that unmarried couples split assets fairly between them. In some cases, this has resulted in one half of the couple being plunged into financial difficulty or being evicted from their home.
- Spousal maintenance – similarly, there is no obligation on your partner to make regular payments to you and help you maintain a good standard of living after you break up.
- Inheritance – The Rules of Intestacy only allow married couples or civil partners to inherit when one half of the couple dies. Therefore, unless you make a Will, your partner cannot inherit from your estate and vice versa.
- Parental responsibility (the rights and duties to raise your children) – unmarried fathers and second parents do not automatically have parental responsibility. This means if you break up, you may not have the right to contribute to decisions about your child’s upbringing without taking legal action.
What our cohabitation solicitors in Nottingham can do for you
The limited rights available to married couples come as a shock to many of our clients, but there is no need to despair. Our friendly and highly skilled cohabitation solicitors can provide advice in all circumstances, including when:
- You have moved in with a partner and you want to protect your financial interests in case you break up in the future
- You are planning to break up with your partner and want to protect yourself
- You have broken up with your partner and need assistance resolving cohabitation disputes
Our cohabitation advice includes:
- Cohabitation Agreements and financial matters
- Making a Will
- Parental responsibility and arrangements for children
- Cohabitation disputes
We understand that thinking about the prospect of breaking up is unpleasant, but you could save yourself a considerable amount of time and stress by entering into a Cohabitation Agreement.
For example, imagine this scenario: a couple lives together for 20 years. Person A moves into Person B’s house early on in the relationship but doesn’t put their name on the title; they also have children and Person A stays at home to raise them while Person B is the sole earner.
If this couple then decide to break up, Person A has no rights to Person B’s money or property. This leaves them in severe financial difficulties because they have no income and a reduced earning capacity from their years out of work. They are also forced to leave their home because they have no legal interest in it.
A Cohabitation Agreement sets out how you and your partner want to divide and arrange your money and property in the event you break up. For example, it could include matters such as:
- Who gets to live in the family home and whether it should be sold
- How the mortgage or rent should be paid
- How the bills should be paid
- Who is responsible for your debts
- How assets and personal belongings, such as cars and furniture, should be split
- Who gets to keep your pets
This agreement can help couples clearly set out their financial interests and expectations and prevent scenarios like the one above where one party is taken by surprise or put at a severe disadvantage upon separation.
Cohabitation Agreements are not technically legally binding. However, so long as you and your partner have both received independent legal advice, a court is likely to uphold it.
If you are unmarried, the only way you can ensure your partner inherits from your estate after you die is to make a Will.
This includes if you own property together as tenants in common (rather than joint tenants). In this case, their half of your home would be inherited by your children or other members of your partner’s family unless specifically left to you in a Will.
We can help you create a strong Will which clearly set out your final wishes. For more information, please visit our Wills and Probate Solicitors in Nottingham page.
We can provide practical advice about whether you have parental responsibility for your children or whether you need to acquire it.
The birth mother always automatically gets parental responsibility, but if you are an unmarried father or same-sex second parent, you will need to take extra steps. For example, fathers can acquire parental responsibility by putting their name on the birth certificate or entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother.
If you would like more general information about our family law services, please visit our Family Law Solicitors in Nottingham page.
We can provide advice on a wide range of cohabitation disputes upon relationship breakdown or the death of your partner, including:
- Money and property disputes – such as issues relating to the ownership of property, debts, and child maintenance
- Inheritance disputes – if your partner left a Will but did not properly provide for you, we can help you make a claim for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975
- Arrangements for children – we can help sort out matters such as where your children will live, how much time they will spend with each parent, and other questions about their upbringing
Why choose our cohabitation solicitors in Nottingham?
Described as “the formidable team” by the Legal 500, a directory of the top law firms in England and Wales, our family lawyers know how to produce the results our clients need.
Combining expert legal knowledge with a friendly, personal approach, we are confident we can help you find a solution to your problems. Whether you are concerned about your financial security going into a relationship, or you and your partner have decided to call it a day, we are on hand to help.
With years of practical experience to back us up, we will aim to resolve your matter as efficiently as possible, minimising costs and safeguarding your future.