Unmarried couples and relationship breakdown


Who owns what?

Contrary to popular belief unmarried couples have very little protection under English law.

It is thought that six out of ten unmarried couples believe that they are the “common law” husband or wife of their partner. The concept of “common law marriage” is a myth and is not recognised by the family courts. This means that unmarried couples have few financial claims against each other.

If you are unmarried you may have the following questions:

  • What financial claims, if any, do I have against my partner?
  • If the family home has to be sold what interest, if any, do I have in the proceeds of sale?
  • Will I get to stay in the family home?
  • What will happen to our children and will my partner have to pay child maintenance?

Elthorne Solicitors will guide you through the answers to these questions and ascertain your legal rights and responsibilities.

The law does not entitle an unmarried person to any type of financial claim against their partner on the breakdown of their relationship in the way that it does for a married couple or those in a Civil Partnership.

The law will treat you as two unrelated individuals. It will be necessary to look to other areas of the law to see what you may be entitled to and to ensure that, so far as the law allows, your needs are met.

The Family Home

Most disputes between unmarried couples arise over the ownership of a shared home. Even if the family home is one party’s sole name you may still have an interest in the equity.  The Court looks to establish if you have made a financial contribution or whether you can show that there was an agreement that you were to have an interest in the property.

Applications to court where one person believes that the legal title to a property does not reflect the true ownership of that property can be complex and costly. The most sensible way forward is to seek expert legal advice at the earliest opportunity.  Elthorne Solicitors are best placed to guide you through the process.

Our team of experts will also advise on whether or not you have the right to carry on living in the family home together with strategies for you to remain in your home so far as is possible.

Your Children

If you and your partner have children and you separate, the parent with care is entitled to child support from the non-resident parent. The amount of maintenance payable will depend on the number of children you both have and your partner’s income. In cases where there are sufficient assets or income it is possible to make a court application for housing to be provided for a child as well as for an additional income or for payments to cover school fees.

The Future

There has been some discussion as to whether the law relating to unmarried couples is likely to change in the near future to give unmarried couples greater rights to financial provision on separation. Elthorne Solicitors support the efforts of Resolution in pushing forward a private members bill in this regard