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What is the reality if you aren't married?

Published on Aug 20, 2019

If you are living together but aren’t married and you separate, what are the realities of the situation?  Our Head of Matrimonial, Nicola Gibbs, answers some of the common questions we are asked.  If you would like to discuss your situation in more detail, we offer a free initial appointment. 

If we have been living together for a long time, are we common law husband/wife?

The simple answer is no, there is no such thing as a common law husband or wife.  This is a myth that many people believe gives claims that simply don’t exist.  The law is very different if you aren’t married and are separating.  Many claims will only apply if you are married. 

I don’t own the house but have lived there for a long time, do I have an interest/claim to the equity?

This is probably the most significant question we are asked by unmarried couples and the reality is that simply living in a property for a length of time doesn’t mean you will automatically have an interest in it.  There are several factors that have to be considered when looking at the property and whether or not you have a claim.  This requires specialist advice, but the reality is that you don’t always have an interest.

We have children together, can I stay in the house until they are older?

It is possible that you can stay in the property until your children are older.  It will depend on a number of factors and again it is important that you take legal advice as to the position before agreeing anything with your partner. 

My partner earns more than me, am I entitled to monthly maintenance?

The only maintenance that may be payable is child maintenance if you have children together.  There isn’t a claim that you should be paid maintenance by your partner if there is a disparity in your income and they earn more than you.

How much can I claim for child maintenance?

Except in rare circumstances, the amount of child maintenance that can be claimed is limited to the level set by the Child Maintenance Service (used to be CSA).  This doesn’t mean you have to use the CMS but the way they calculate maintenance is often used to set the amount payable.  

Can I have a share of my partners pension?

The simple answer to this is no.  There aren’t any claims that can be made against your partners pension. 

We are just moving in together, can I do anything to protect myself?

It is a good idea if you are moving in together to discuss how you will own the property, whether you will have an interest if it isn’t in your name and what may happen if you were to separate.  Understandably this can be a difficult subject to approach, but if you can have discussions, we can prepare a co-habitation agreement.  The agreement is designed to set out what your intentions are regarding the property/finances for you both.  If you were to separate in the future, it is a persuasive document that can help make a difficult time, significantly easier.

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