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Unmarried couples do not have the same rights as couples who are married or in a civil partnership when they separate.
There is a widely held myth that cohabiting couples form a ‘common law marriage’ that gives them legal protection but in reality, no matter how long you live with someone you do not have the same legal rights and protection in the UK. This can cause difficulties in respect of both finances and arrangements for children.
At Heald Solicitors based in Milton Keynes, our family law team have a wide understanding of the rights of unmarried couples, and we can advise you of your options if your relationship ends.
Despite less protection for those who are not married, you do still have some safeguards and we can advise and represent you to ensure that you are protected as far as possible when it comes to your family home, providing for your children and facilitating arrangements that enable you to care for and spend time with your children.
Both parents have a legal obligation to support their children financially, whether or not they are married or in a civil partnership.
Unmarried couples do not have an obligation to support each other following separation and will generally keep the assets they hold in their sole names, unless the other partner is able to prove that they have a beneficial interest in that asset. There are several ways that one party can demonstrate that they have a beneficial interest in a property. For example, if one party contributed towards the deposit on a property but does not have their name on the legal title, there may be a trust deed that explicitly sets out the extent of that beneficial interest.
If there is no trust deed, it may still be possible to prove that a direct financial contribution was made towards the deposit on the property. Similarly, if it can be shown that the non-owning partner made direct payments towards the mortgage or paid for any renovations on the property, this may be sufficient to establish a beneficial interest in the property. A beneficial interest means that although the party’s name is not on the title deeds, when the property is sold, they will be entitled to receive a certain percentage of the net sale proceeds.
Establishing a beneficial interest by way of trust is a complicated area of law and it is recommended that legal advice is sought as soon as any uncertainty arises between partners over the ownership of a property.
Where children are involved, you may be able to stay in a property for a certain period of time even if you do not own it.
With jointly owned assets such as property, this is normally divided equally or in accordance with the way it is owned. For example, a home may be owned as tenants in common with one party holding a one-third share and the other holding two-thirds. If the home is owned as joint tenants, then the implication is that it was intended that the property be owned in equal shares, but this is not necessarily always the case.
If one party has contributed a larger share to the purchase of a property and/or has paid more towards the mortgage and/or renovations, it may be possible to claim a larger share of the net equity even if this is not evidenced by a trust deed. It may also be possible to claim a beneficial interest in the property even if you do not own it or if it was purchased on the understanding that you would have a share in it.
Where children are involved, you may be able to stay in a property for a certain period of time even if you do not own it, so that a home can be provided for the children of the family.
Both parents have a legal obligation to support their children financially, whether or not they are married or in a civil partnership. This usually means that the parent who does not have the day-to-day care of the children will pay maintenance to the other parent.
Unmarried parents also have legal rights and responsibilities in respect of their children. Where they have parental responsibility, they have a right to be consulted about certain decisions that are taken and a right to make decisions themselves. By way of example, anyone with parental responsibility must give written consent for a child to be taken out of the country.
Our family law team are experts in dealing with financial issues and children matters for unmarried couples.
While our office is in Milton Keynes, we are experienced in working with clients throughout England and Wales, often remotely, meaning that you can expect the same expert legal advice and excellent client care wherever you are located.
If you would like to speak to one of our family law solicitors, please get in touch with our legal expert Keshini Rajendra.01908 662 277
At Heald Solicitors, our family law team understands how difficult the situation is. We are friendly and approachable, and we will make sure we provide the support you need throughout your time with us.
We have an in-depth understanding of family law and legal processes involved in all aspects of divorce, separation, children and finances and we will take the time to get to know you and your particular circumstances so that we can provide bespoke advice and guidance. We know how daunting the legal process can feel, so our aim is to demystify the legalities of your case. In situations where financial arrangements and children issues are complex, we do our utmost to prevent you from being overwhelmed by working to untangle things piece by piece.
Our team will work proactively to ensure that your case is dealt with efficiently and effectively. We will ensure that we are available to speak to you as needed to discuss progress and to answer any queries you may have.
We are based in Milton Keynes, but our leading reputation means that we also deal extensively with clients from the surrounding areas and beyond, communicating remotely where necessary.
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