Often in today’s society, couples who plan to marry already live together or intend to live together first with the aim to save for and plan a wedding. Before taking the plunge it is important to know your legal rights now.

Many people believe that there is such thing as a common law marriage. There is not. It is a myth. Presently couples who are unmarried but live together find themselves with very little, if any rights at all upon separation.

If you are married, the starting point in any financial separation is an equal split of all of the matrimonial assets. Upon divorce the court has the power to transfer property to the other person if it is not jointly owned. However, if you are not married, it doesn’t matter how many years you have lived together, you have no automatic claim over your partner’s income, pensions or property.

A number of cases have appeared in the media of late which reinforces this. In a recently reported case a Judge decided that a British millionaire, having funded a deposit and paid the mortgage on a house placed in the sole name of his Lithuanian girlfriend Greta, had no claim over it. The Court accepted upon hearing evidence that the couple had intended that the £650,000 house only to be for Greta.

In 2015 it was estimated by the National Office of Statistics that 3.2 million opposite sex couples were cohabiting in the UK. With the Law Commission having previously called for a change in the law in 2007 a Cohabitation Rights Bill was introduced last year. This was placed on the back burner in 2015 as it is still awaiting its second reading and is yet to be made law.

Presently, there are very limited remedies for cohabitees upon separation to obtain financial security. In some cases claims can be made under:

  • Section 14 of the Trusts of Lands and Trustees Act 1996 for the court to determine if you have an interest in your partner’s property
  • On the death of a cohabitee only, the Inheritance (provision for family and dependants) Act 1975
  • Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for financial provision for a child, if you have one together.

Clearly remedies under the Inheritance Act and Children Act are extremely limited to circumstances. Claims made under the Trusts of Land Act can be extremely complex and the prospect of success uncertain.

It is therefore important to take legal advice in early course and if possible, set out your intentions in a written agreement often referred to as a Cohabitation or Living Together Agreement. Farleys can assist and advise you in relation to preparing such an agreement We can also assist you with advice in relation to pre-nuptial agreements and a range of other matters including rights relating to children, divorce and financial separation. For further information, please contact us.