Unmarried couples

Under current legislation, unmarried couples do not have the same legal protection as those that are married or in a civil partnership. It is not uncommon for clients to ask about ‘common law marriages’ but this concept is a myth and does not exist, no matter how long you have been in a relationship.

Unmarried couples, and in particular those who have children, are often surprised and upset by the fact they do not have the same rights as married couples upon separation.

At Rix & Kay we can advise you in relation to what rights you may have on separation and what your options are on the breakdown of a cohabiting relationship.

Property Ownership

If you own a property jointly with your partner, or you have moved into a property in your partner’s sole name, you will need to take specific advice regarding your rights to that property.

Unlike those in a marriage or civil partnership, there is no law aimed specifically at unmarried couples. Property claims are not straight forward as the law in this area is complicated and unless you have proper safeguards in place, you may find that you are seriously dis-advantaged upon separation, particularly if you are the main carer for the children.

In the absence of any direct agreement regarding the ownership of a property, such as a Deed of Trust, it is easy to be uncertain as to what you are entitled to.

It is therefore always a good idea to seek advice when you have children as to how to protect your position. In the event you have separated, we suggest that you seek legal advice on your options and rights at an early stage.


The good news is that insofar as child maintenance claims are concerned, unmarried couples have the same right as married couples to child support and can make a claim to the Child Maintenance Service under the child maintenance legislation.

You can consider making an application under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for financial provision for your children. This does not mean the financial provision will be extended to yourself, but in certain circumstances, the non-resident parent of the children may have to provide a home, capital or additional income during the children’s minority.

In relation to the arrangements for children, whether or not their parents were married will have no impact at all.

At Rix and Kay we can assist in ensuring that you have protection, in the form of a Cohabitation Agreement, Deed of Trust and/or a Will to protect yourself and any children in the event of separation from your partner.