Unmarried Couples

Unmarried Couples

If you and your partner live together as a couple and are not married, you are considered unmarried partners. There is a general misconception that you are a ‘common law spouse’, this term does not hold any legal weight.

As an unmarried partner you may have a joint bank account, joint assets, a will, and children together. However your rights in respect of the aforementioned are different than if you were married.

Although you cannot enter into legally binding agreement when living together with your partner, it is wise to consider drawing up a written cohabitation agreement. In the event of separation this will highlight what you both agreed upon in respect of your entitlement to one another’s property or assets, the extend of the contributions you will each make and any arrangements relating to your children.

Financial rights as an unmarried partner

Although you are living together as unmarried partners, this does not mean that your finances are assumed to be shared. In the case of property which is owned, this is considered to be the separate property of the person who owns it. Where you are living together in rented accommodation, the expectation is that you will both be named on the tenancy in order to have a right to live there.

If you have money in separate bank accounts then you solely own those funds, and your partner cannot have access to your money. If you have a joint account, the assumed position is that you both have access to that money.

Children and unmarried parents

Whether or not you are married to your children’s parent, if you have parental responsibility for your child you are entitled to be involved in and have a say in all of the important decisions to do with your child.

On separation, you will continue to have parental responsibility and should have the right to access your child and have contact with them. If on separation your unmarried partner is blocking your right to have contact with your children you are entitled to bring an application to Court under the Children Act 1989.

Death of my unmarried partner

If your unmarried partner has not written a will whereby they leave a part of their estate to you, you will not be automatically entitled to a portion of their estate. If you believe that you have a valid interest in their estate you will need to apply to Court to bring a claim for their estate.

However if you and your unmarried partner had children together, even if there is no will, your children are entitled to inherit from your unmarried partner’s estate.

Unmarried separation

If you have any jointly owned property and assets, or believe you may have an interest in your unmarried partner’s property or assets, you can take the matter to Court under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. Please refer to our section on TOLATA claims which in detail outline the process.

If you have children you may be entitled to bring an application to Court for financial support for your and your child under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989.

If you need any further advice, please do not hesitate to contact one of our family lawyers who will be happy to assist you.