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A Cohabiting Couple’s Rights Vs. A married Couple’s Rights


If You And Your Partner Are A Cohabiting Couple, You Won’t Have The Same Rights As A Married Couple When It Comes To A Break Up

Cohabiting CoupleMany people believe that after a break up, couples in a cohabiting relationship have the same legal protection as couples in a marriage. However, this is a mistake. Legally, the position of a cohabiting relationship is very different from that of a couple who are married. In fact, cohabitants have little or no legal protection at all if their relationship was to end.

A recent survey revealed that the second largest family type in the UK was the cohabiting couple family with 3.3 million families, an increase of 2.2 million since 1996. These statistics reveal that the cohabiting couple families are growing fastest in the UK.

There are millions of unmarried couples in the UK who don’t understand where they stand legally if their relationship were to break down. So, what are your legal rights and how can you protect yourself?

Rights To Property After A Break Up

The importance of whose name is on the title deeds is far higher for an unmarried couple than it is for a married couple. The chances of you seeking shared assets that are not officially owned in your name is reduced massively when you’re not in a married couple.

If you and your partner have agreed to separate, you will need to decide who gets what, including the house you’re living in. This can be an extremely difficult decision, as one person may believe they should remain in the property with the children, whereas the other believes that they’ve contributed more money into the property.

Nevertheless, this kind of debate can be cut short for unmarried couples as there is high a chance you won’t have any legal rights over the property if your name isn’t shown on the title deeds.

When a marriage brakes down, any financial settlements that need to be made will be referred to the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. When a cohabiting relationship breaks down, and a property is involved, this is governed by the law of property and the law of trusts.

In order to protect yourself in this situation, you can put a Cohabitation Agreement in place. This agreement will outline all the details regarding what will happen should the relationship break down. including, who (if anyone) should keep the house and how any joint savings should be dealt with.

Create A Will

We would strongly advise anyone to make a valid will. Legally, if you’re in a cohabited relationship and one cohabitant were to die, according to the rules of intestacy, unmarried cohabits do not inherit.

Children Of Cohabiting Couples

The most important issue to resolve in any relationship breakdown is who the children will live with and what contact arrangements will be put in place for the other parent.

It’s important for both parents to have regular contact with the children but in cases of unmarried couples, the rights especially for the farther, can be more complex.

The law in relation to children is primarily based on what is best for the children involved. The English Legal System, prefers a voluntary agreement between the parents rather than a legal settlement as it is seen that a voluntary agreement succeeds better in the long term.

The law states that the natural mother of the child automatically has parental responsibility after a break up.

If the child was born when its parents were married, then the farther will automatically have shared parental responsibility over the child. However, if the parents weren’t married at the time of the time of the birth, the farther can only get parental responsibility for the child in 1 of 3 ways:

  • Registering the birth of the child with the mother after December 1st, 2003
  • Getting a parental responsibility agreement with the natural mother of the child
  • Getting a parental responsibility order from court

If you have any further questions relating to this topic, then don’t hesitate to contact a member of our team.