Marriage (or entering into a civil partnership) is not for everybody. Many people prefer to remain living together in a long-term committed relationship, without feeling the need to go through a ceremony of marriage. However, in such situations the legal (and particularly financial) rights a couple will have against each other might be very different to the rights a married couple might have in the event of a separation and divorce.
There is no such thing. It is often suggested that partners can become “common law” husband and wife if they have lived together for a specific period of time. This has no basis in law whatsoever. In particular, you cannot acquire any legal rights over any property or assets owned by your partner simply by virtue of the fact that you have lived together for a period of time.
Generally, unmarried couples cannot claim financial support or maintenance from each other on separation in the way that a married couple would be able to do. However, if there are children of the relationship, then the parent the children live with will be able to claim child support maintenance for the children and can make an application to the Child Support Agency if this cannot be agreed.
Any bank accounts, savings or other investments that are held in joint names will generally be divided equally, but you will not be able to bring any financial claims over assets held in the sole name of your former partner.
In the case of a married couple who separate and divorce, a property will normally be treated as a joint asset and divided between the couple whether it is held in joint names or in the sole name of one of the couple. However, that is not the case for unmarried couples.
Where a property is held in joint names, then it will be divided between the joint owners based on the share that they each have in the property. This may mean that a property will have to be sold if one is unable to “buy out” the other’s share. If there are dependent children living at the property, then it might be possible for the sale to be delayed until the children are of age.
This is where unmarried former partners are treated very differently from married couples on separation.The starting point is that if a property is held in the sole name of one of the unmarried partners, then that person keeps it and it is difficult for the other to bring a claim for a share. There are circumstances in which such a claim can be brought if:-
The partner seeking to bring the claim needs to prove that circumstances exist to justify them having a share of the property. This can be difficult and may require an application to be made to the Court. It can be a complex area of law and it is wise to obtain advice from a solicitor at an early stage in order to obtain a clear idea of where you stand.
Angela Moores has extensive specialist experience in dealing with such cases. Contact us for more information or to arrange a consultation.