5 Legal Tips all Unmarried Couples Should Know
Recent statistics show that there has been a steady increase in the number of couples, particularly younger people, who choose not to marry in England and Wales. Figures from the 2021 census have revealed that there are now 5.8 million people aged 25 to 35 who are unmarried compared to 1991, when 2.7 million 25- to 35-year-olds were unmarried. As the proportion of adults who have never been married or entered into a civil partnership has increased for all ages under 70 years since the 2011 census, it’s never been more important to protect yourself if you’re part of an unmarried couple. As matrimonial lawyers, here are our top 5 legal tips that unmarried couples should know.
1. No Legal Definition of a Cohabitee
Despite proposed future changes for reforming cohabitation law, at present there’s no actual legal definition of a cohabitee. This means that the persons involved are still considered individuals in the eyes of the law, despite sharing a home. This can inevitably cause problems for cohabitees who decide to separate, and then find out that they don’t have the same rights as couples who are married or who are in civil partnerships.
2. The Myth of Common Law Marriage
Despite the common misconception of the common law marriage, people who have cohabited are not covered by the same legislation as those who have married or entered into a civil partnership, and consequently they do not have automatic rights to claim against the other if the relationship breaks down. For example, they’re exempt from maintenance rights, rights to their partner’s pension, and automatic inheritance (unless there is a will in place).
3. Property Matters
For unmarried couples who live together and are separating, you do not have an automatic claim on property owned in one person’s name. If you co-own your property, you will be either ‘tenants in common’ or ‘joint tenants’, which will be recorded at HM Land Registry. If you are ‘tenants in common’ your beneficial interest will have been recorded when you purchased the property.
4. Shared Children
Although unmarried couples who separate don’t have the right to make a financial claim for support for themselves or against their ex-partner, they may have a right to make claims of an income or capital nature in relation to any children. This may be either via Child Maintenance or an application under schedule 1 of the Children Act.
5. Protection with a Cohabitation Agreement
Cohabitation Agreements can be drawn up to cover the financial aspects of a couple’s relationship whilst they are cohabiting. This legal document can be useful for a couple who are choosing to buy a property and intend to formalise who will pay certain bills or debts, or when drawing up what shares in the property the individuals will hold. Cohabitation Agreements are also a sensible idea if the couple chooses to have children. And, in the event of a separation, Cohabitation Agreements are a good way to protect both parties financially.
As experts in Cohabitation Agreements, Vines Legal can provide advice and support for unmarried couples. For a free initial consultation with our specialist family lawyers, please don’t hesitate to contact us on 01246 555610.
By Vines Legal on 9 May 2023, 12:33 PM