Not all relationships follow the traditional route and more and more couples are deciding to cohabit rather than marry. This can give rise to complications if the relationship comes to an end since the parties do not have the same rights as married couples.
Our specialist family lawyers can advise and represent those that are cohabiting and will assist you in choosing the best route for you and your family.
Does Common Law Marriage Exist in England and Wales?
Contrary to popular beliefs, there is no such thing as a "common law marriage" in the UK. Unmarried and cohabiting couples can only make claims in relation to property rights and financial claims for children of the family. These are complicated areas of law and you will need legal assistance to ensure an outcome that works for you.
Property Rights and Cohabitation Agreements
A separating couple will go through the same issues and concerns as a married couple. However, the law offers far greater protection and a wider range of financial remedies to married couples than those cohabiting.
Cohabiting couples must rely on property law and trust law to make financial claims at the end of a relationship. They are not entitled to a financial settlement nor maintenance from the other party. Property law and trust law are very complicated and challenging areas of law and the process does not necessarily result in an outcome that is regarded as suitable.
It is, for this reason, we strongly recommend that unmarried couples should have their financial interests protected by a cohabitation agreement at the early stages of the relationship, rather than relying on the law in this area once this has deteriorated.
What does a cohabitation agreement include?
A good cohabitation agreement will cover things such as how the couple would want their finances to be divided if they were to separate and the arrangements for any children. By taking expert legal advice before any issue arises can help prevent problems from arising in the future.
Financial Claims Concerning Children
Children of a cohabiting couple have greater financial protections. A claim can be made to the Child Support Agency who will determine the level of child support that should be paid regardless of whether or not they were married.
There is further protection given by Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, which allows either party to apply for:
- A lump sum payment to cover the costs of raising the child.
- A transfer of property order or settlement order to provide a home for the child.
- A Child Maintenance Order to cover the costs of raising the child.
The financial claims are for the benefit of the child and not the parent that is applying. The courts will determine the level of the financial order based on various factors including the parties' financial situation, whether they have other children to support and the requirements and needs of the child, including their education.
Contact our Cohabitation Solicitors, London
Our expert team of family lawyers can assist and guide you on all aspects of the law in relation to cohabiting couples. We realise that relationship issues can be complicated and stressful, therefore will ensure that we help you get the best results in your circumstances.