Did you know there is no such thing as a ‘common-law marriage’ in the UK, even if the couple have been in a partnership for several years and have children?

Cohabiting couples do not have the same protections as those married or in a civil partnership. Therefore, your financial position and that of your children is not automatically protected should your relationship breakdown.

If you are cohabiting or planning on doing so, it is important that you are aware of any legal rights relevant to you and perhaps what steps you can take to protect yours and your children’s financial wealth, including property rights.

Rights over a property owned by your partner

If the property you both live in is solely owned by your partner, you would not be entitled to a share of the property. However, you might feel that you should be entitled to a share of the property due to the substantial contribution you have made; for example, you have carried out renovations to improve the property or have contributed towards the mortgage or purchase of the property and your partner either promised or led you to believe you would benefit from the property. In such a case, you might be able to bring a civil claim within the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act [known as TLATA 1996]. Our lawyers are proficient in these types of claims and will be able to assist you.

What about the children of unmarried partners?

The Children Act 1989 governs the child’s residence, with which parent they will live and how often the other parent will spend time with the child. You can find further information under our Children Law section.

This law is applicable to all children irrespective of whether the parents are married. However, the law relating to financial provision for children of unmarried partners is restricted to Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. This means if you are unmarried, following relationship breakdown, you will not be able to claim property adjustment, periodical payments and lump sum orders for your children under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973, which is only applicable to married couples on separation.

In addition to Child Maintenance, which any parent can claim through the Child Maintenance Service, you might also be able to make an application to court for financial provision for the benefit of the children within Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. Financial provision can include lump sum orders, periodical payments and property adjustment orders.

Therefore, if you separate and the property is owned by your partner, who is the children’s biological or adoptive father, you might be able to remain in the property with the children for as long as they remain dependent. You might also be able to claim for additional regular payments if the children’s father’s earnings are above the scope of Child Maintenance.

Cohabitation Agreements

If you are a homeowner and wish to protect your asset before cohabitation begins, it is advisable to think of entering into a cohabitation agreement to define how your assets will be dealt with on separation. You can also opt to adopt other practical measures to safeguard your property on separation, especially if you intend to purchase a property jointly or there is intention that your partner will contribute towards the deposit to purchase, the mortgage or carry out work to improve the property. It is important that your respective shares are defined clearly and even if you do not intend to enter into any agreement, you may find legal advice beneficial.

Prenuptial Agreements

Are you planning to get married and want to protect your assets first?

A prenuptial agreement, or a prenup for short, is a legally binding contract between you and your future spouse that outlines each of your assets and the division of them should you divorce in the future.

The most common question we are asked is if a Prenuptial Agreement is legally binding in UK Law. It is not automatically legally binding but will be upheld by a court so long as it meets the set of criteria:

  • It must be freely entered into by both partners
  • The couple must understand the implications
  • It must be fair
  • It must be written in such a way that is contractually valid
  • It must have been approved 28 days before the wedding
  • Full disclosure should be made about the wider financial status of each individual
  • Both individuals must have received professional legal advice
  • It should not prejudice any children
  • The needs of both individuals must be met

If you and your partner are considering creating a prenuptial agreement, please get in touch with AGR Law to make sure the above criteria are established.

Alternative Marriages

Your marriage may be recognised by your community or religion, but it may not be legally binding unless certain requirements are complied with.

This can affect your financial and property rights, but we can put measures in place to protect you and your children, as above.