We are finding ourselves more frequently helping people who choose to live together rather than marry. We can help them protect their assets at the outset of their relationship or, working with our specialist Dispute Resolution team, to swiftly resolve disputes that may arise if the relationship breaks down.
Contrary to popular belief, the concept of “common law marriage” does not exist within English law.
The fact that you live with someone for say, 20yrs does not mean you have any legal rights against them on separation or that you have any obligations to support one another in the future. This remains the case unless you have made a monetary contribution towards property, were led to believe that you would have an interest in property or, if you have a child together. In such circumstances, matters are much less straight forward and legal advice should be obtained at the earliest opportunity.
In summary, the law relating to people living together falls into two areas:
- Property law in relation to property shared together; and
- Financial support and housing for children.
A cohabitee, as an individual, has no right to financial support on the ending of a relationship although does have a right to claim support for any dependent child. There is no automatic right to housing and the laws for deciding how much of a shared home each party is entitled to on separation, or indeed who should be allowed to occupy a property, are very complex and an area that continues to evolve.
We have extensive experience in resolving disputes between unmarried couples and importantly, to prevent such disputes in the first place by advising on methods available to protect assets when a relationship starts. Further details are available in our leaflet The Legal Aspects of Living Together and on the page Co-Ownership Disputes.
If you would like to talk about these issues with one of our specialist team, please contact us on 01732 747900. We are based in Sevenoaks, Kent but are happy to offer advice by phone/email or, to meet with you in our Tonbridge office if it is more convenient for you.