“Common – law” marriage is not a recognised legal status and, therefore, the law and entitlement is different for an unmarried couple compared to a married couple.
Many couples choose not to marry before making serious commitments, both in terms of finances and to each other. However, if the relationship breaks down or one of them passes away, this can lead to disagreements and complex legal issues. Our specialist Family Law solicitors can help.
When a cohabiting couple breaks up, each person leaves the relationship with ownership of their own property held in their sole name regardless of how long they’ve lived together. However, the difficulty may arise when there is a dispute i.e. if the other party contributed financially to the property, or they claim there was a common intention that the other has a beneficial interest in the shared property.
Is the non-owning party then entitled to a share of the property?
It depends. A beneficial interest in a property can arise by an express written declaration or agreement (express trust) but when neither is present, any beneficial interest has to be worked out and this is a detailed retrospective and forensic exercise.
A cohabitant may be able to make a claim for maintenance which is for “reasonable financial provision” and if the Applicant succeeds, the court may make a number of orders, including interim orders if there’s an immediate need for financial assistance. Cohabiting couples are therefore advised to make wills to prevent this problem. There is a time limit to bring any claim.
Schedule 1 claims
These can arise when there is a disagreement over how children are to be provided for. When the cohabitating couple have a child, any settlement or court order can include the settlement of property for the benefit of a child and also orders for maintenance or lump sums for the child. Orders can also be made against a non-resident parent if he/she is not a resident of the UK. There are many more orders that the court can make in respect of providing for the child or for the benefit of the child.