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Even if you and your partner have lived together for several years or have children, the law does not recognise “common law husbands and wives”. Legally, unmarried couples who live together are referred to as “cohabitees” and do not have the same protections or responsibilities as those married or in a civil partnership. Property Law and Trusts Law strictly determines financial matters between partners and, if children are involved, the Children Act 1989. This blog looks at some of the most common questions regarding legal rights for unmarried couples and what steps you can take to protect your and your children’s best interests.


What are the property rights of unmarried couples? 

Generally, if you live in a property solely owned by your partner, you do not automatically have a right to a share of the property. However, there may be the ability to make a financial claim on the home if you can prove that you financially contributed to it or there was an agreement that you were to have an interest in the property. If you have not contributed financially to the family home, you may still be entitled to receive financial assistance. This would be in terms of providing a home if you have children together living with you as long as they remain dependent under “Schedule 1 of the Children Act”.

If you are buying a property with your partner, you must discuss and agree on what would happen if the relationship ended or one of you dies. Seeking legal advice and putting in place a Declaration of Trust can help you avoid expensive litigation in the future. You can also consider entering into a cohabitation agreement.

For more information, you can read our previous article, “What is TOLATA” regarding property disputes for unmarried couples. 


Can unmarried partners get spousal support after a breakup?

If they separate, unmarried couples have no legal rights regarding financial responsibility or financial support. Even though unmarried parents cannot claim spousal support if the relationship breaks down, they may be able to claim child support. In England and Wales, parents have a financial responsibility to their children through the government’s scheme, the Child Maintenance Service. In addition to Child Maintenance, you might also be able to make an application to the court for financial provision for the benefit of the children within Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. Financial provision can include lump sum orders, periodical payments, and property adjustment orders.


What are the legal rights if a partner dies without a Will?  

If a person dies without a Will, the rules of intestacy will apply, which decides who benefits from their estate, including provisions for a surviving spouse or civil partner and surviving children. Unmarried cohabiting couples do not have the same automatic right of inheritance.

If unmarried couples have a property in joint names, and there is no Will, it will likely go to the surviving partner, and this is the same with joint bank accounts. It is possible to apply to the court under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, also known as an ‘Inheritance Act Claim’, if you have children or were financially dependent on your partner. You may be able to claim under the 1975 Act if:

  • your partner died intestate (without a Will)
  • your partner left a Will but didn’t adequately provide for you or your children within it

Specialist Cohabitation Solicitors Kingston

Our specialist family law and cohabitation solicitors can help you on a wide range of cohabitation matters and disputes for unmarried couples, including Declaration of Trusts, advising on Trusts Law and Property law principles after separation, Cohabitation Agreements, and your legal rights regarding a financial interest in a property.

At Rose & Rose, our family law team are skilled in this area of law and will work with you to find the most appropriate solution, guiding you through the entire process and helping avoid unnecessary stress.

For further advice on cohabitation and other family law matters, please contact our Family Law team below.


This blog post is not intended to be taken as advice or acted upon. If you are seeking legal advice, please get in touch with our team of solicitors.

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Marie-Cecilia Ferreira

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