Many couples choose to live together but not marry or enter into a Civil Partnership. Cohabitees do not have the same, or even similar, rights as couples who are married or civil partners. The myth of the “Common Law” husband or wife is not to be believed!

It is important to take legal advice before moving in with or buying a property with your partner. If you are intending to purchase a property you should consider how the property is to be owned so that your interest or contribution is protected.

You should also ensure you have a Will to ensure that your financial interest is protected and passes to the beneficiary(ies) of your choice upon your death.

It is sensible to consider entering into a Living Together Agreement to provide for who pays the mortgage or other outgoings during the relationship. The Agreement can also set out who assets and liabilities are to be divided in the event that the relationship breaks down. The Agreement represents a firm indication of your intentions at the time it was entered into and can assist in reducing the stress, acrimony and upset in the event of relationship breakdown. The Agreement can also make it clear that it is not intended that a party will acquire rights in property and so can prevent a claim from being brought.

Where there are children of the relationship, the parent who has day-to-day care of them may be able to bring a claim under Schedule 1 Children Act 1989 to ensure financial needs can be meet whilst the children are dependent. Under this legislation the Court can order that the other parent makes financial provision for a house for the children to live in, a car, necessary equipment and school/nursery fees. Advice should be sought about potential claims whenever a parent has the care of a child(ren) but was not married to the other parent.

1. We have been living together for 10 years – do I have the same legal protections as a spouse?

No. It is important to remember that unmarried couples do not acquire the same rights as married couples or those in civil partnerships. If you are unmarried, you do not have the same claims against your former partner as you would have had if you had been married. This is why it is important to consider protecting your financial position and, in the event of your relationship breaking down where children are involved, to consider whether you may be entitled to financial provision for the benefit of your child(ren).

2. I am not married to my partner. Does this mean I am not protected if they are violent or abusive towards me?

Absolutely not. In the event that you are the subject of domestic violence or abuse you are entitled to protection from the Police and the Courts (in the form of injunctions known as Non-Molestation and Occupation Orders). If you share a home with your partner, whether owned or rented (jointly or in one party’s sole name) the Court may exclude your partner from the property for your protection.

3. I do not live with my partner. Am I able to seek protection from their abusive and violent behaviour towards me?

Yes. Under the Family Law Act 1996 the Court has powers to make orders for the protection of victims of domestic abuse and violence against “associated persons”. This includes married couples, civil partners, cohabitees, relatives, people who have agreed to marry one another (whether or not that agreement has been terminated), both parents of a child and people who have had an intimate personal relationship which is or was of significant duration.

Our Family Team is experienced at providing advice in relation to protection from domestic abuse or violence and to supporting clients through Court proceedings, where appropriate. 

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