What are the financial rights for unmarried couples?

If you are an unmarried couple you may be unaware of the law that applies to your relationship.

Couples living together in unmarried relationships, contrary to popular belief, do not share the same legal rights and financial claims as their married counterparts.

Cohabiting couples do not share the same legal protection as married couples, this includes financial rights if the relationship ends.

Financial claims on divorce

Marriage gives couples certain legal and financial claims on divorce for a share of the capital assets, financial support and a share of any pension assets. This privilege is not applicable to  cohabiting couples, even though they may have been together for a longer period of time or even have children/property.

When a married couple divorce, the family court system offers significant legal protection if the parties are unable to agree on financial arrangements.

The family court can also consider several different principles when deciding how to deal with the financial arrangements on divorce. These include assessing the needs of both sides and any children, as well as principles of fairness and equality.

Financial claims for unmarried couples

Unlike their married counterparts, cohabiting couples do not have automatic claims for financial support or for a share of the assets held in the other’s name such as savings, investments, businesses, pensions etc.

The law treats unmarried couples very differently to their married counterparts and the only financial claims are related to the property they have shared or lived in as a couple and child maintenance.

Child maintenance for unmarried couples

If the unmarried couple has children, then the only type of financial support available is child maintenance.

Unmarried couples are encouraged to agree their child maintenance arrangements between themselves. However, if this is not possible, then an application can be made by either parent to the Child Maintenance Service for an assessment.

Property claims for cohabitees

Usually the main asset of an unmarried relationship is the property that was shared during the relationship. If there is a dispute of ownership and division of the equity in the property after a cohabiting couple relationship ends, then an application to the civil court under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 may be required.

In such cases, the court will approach matters very differently to a financial application on divorce. Principles of fairness do not come into play and instead, it will be presumed that the property is held in the way it is recorded at the Land Registry. This will remain the case unless the party seeking a share of the property can provide evidence that this was not the intended case.

These types of cases usually have a large cost attached to them, we recommend attempting other resolutions including solicitor negotiation and leave this as a last resort.

If you are in a cohabiting relationship, or have recently separated from your unmarried partner, and need legal advice about your situation then contact BMS Solicitors today to see how we can help.