Living together

Many people believe that if you live with your partner for a number of years you acquire the same rights as a married couple, that you have a “common law marriage”. This is not true.  The law for married couples and unmarried couples is different.

The family home may be owned in joint names and so you will both have a legal interest.   If it is not in joint names the person who lives in the home but who does not own it may be vulnerable.  The law governing divorce does not apply.  Your interest must be proved using the general law of property and contract.   What if you want to leave and can’t afford to rent until the home is sold or your partner buys out your interest?  There is no entitlement to maintenance even if your partner earns a lot more than you.  What about savings?  Perhaps your partner has substantial savings which have built up over the years you have lived together.  If the savings are not in joint names there is no entitlement.

Having children together may make a difference.  The Children Act 1989 schedule 1 provides for you to apply for settlement or transfer of property or a lump sum.

All parents have a duty to financially maintain their child and so an absent parent has a maintenance obligation and, if this is not resolved by agreement, an application can be made to the Child Maintenance Service.   The Court can only deal with child maintenance in certain circumstances such as the Child Maintenance Service having already assessed a basic level of maintenance and the Court ordering an additional amount if it is decided the parent can afford it, or the child living outside the UK.

Finally, an unmarried father who has a child born before 1st December 2003, or born after that date but his name is not registered on the birth certificate, will not have parental responsibility for his child.  Only the unmarried mother has a duty to register the birth of the child although the parents can choose to do so together.

Due to the potential complexities of breaking up when you have been living together, I would recommend that you take, at least, initial advice from a solicitor.

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