Your legal rights
The Office of National Statistics shows that the number of children born to unmarried parents is rising. In 2016, more than 50% of children will be born outside of marriage. This ties in with the trend we see of more and more unmarried couples seeking advice on relationship breakdown.
It is important you understand that if you are not married, your rights on relationship breakdown are very different to a spouse or civil partner.
•Cohabitees have no rights to maintenance or any other kind of long-term financial support for themselves. Spouses can ask for spousal maintenance for a fixed term or for life.
•Cohabitees can ask for child maintenance. This is the same as a married parent, and the assessment is carried out in the same way.
•Cohabitees have no automatic right to share in cash, savings or investments owned in the other person’s name. In contrast, a divorcing couple will have potential claims again the other person’s assets.
•Cohabitees have no right to seek a share of their partner’s pension. Spouses can ask for a pension to be shared on divorce.
•Cohabitees have no legal right to claim against a property owned by their partner unless they can demonstrate that they have acquired an interest in the property, either by making a financial contribution or contributing in some other way. The process to claim a share in property if you are not a legal or beneficial owner can be both costly, difficult to prove and time-consuming. In divorce cases, all assets whether held jointly or in one party’s sole name are taken into account in order to reach a fair settlement. It is possible on divorce for the court to order the transfer the ownership of property from one party to another.
•If you live with someone and they die without a will, your position may be very different than if you were married. You may not benefit from any part of their estate on their death.
Don’t carry on in blissful ignorance. If you live with someone or have children with a partner but choose not to get married and are wondering where you stand, obtain legal advice at an early stage. We won’t tell you how to lead your life but we will point you in the right direction about what you need to think about. Contact us and we can advise on pitfalls and how they might best be avoided, as well as how you could manage your arrangements.