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Co-habiting couples – what are the legal rights in the UK

By April 3, 2018 February 12th, 2019 No Comments

There are a significant number of couples in the UK that choose to co-habit, rather than marry or enter a civil partnership.

If you are co-habiting, you may or may not be aware that you do not have the same rights as a married couple; and contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a ‘common-law marriage’. 

Rights for co-habiting couples

In England & Wales if you live together, rather than marrying or entering a civil partnership, you have no automatic rights to your partner’s property on their death, no automatic entitlement to inherit their estate, even if you have children together, unless there is a will in place.

There are no tax reliefs and exemptions that spouses and civil partners currently enjoy.

There is some help under the law in England & Wales, but is restricted to:

1. Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 provides financial provision for co-habitants’ children under 18.

2. If you jointly own a property registered at the Land Registry you are entitled to your share, however, if your partner is reluctant to sell the property, you may be obliged to obtain a court order to sell it.

3. It may be possible to establish a claim if one partner has contributed significant amounts towards the home, such as towards the mortgage or renovations.

4. If one partner can prove that they were financially dependent on the other during their relationship, it may be possible to make a claim under the Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975.

What you can do to improve your legal position

You should consider drawing up a legal co-habitation agreement to determine how much each partner pays towards the rent, mortgage, utilities and child maintenance, both during the relationship, and if the relationship comes to an end.  You should also make a will and keep it up to date if your circumstances change.

Your solicitor will be best placed to help you with your legal arrangements and planning in this regard.  If you do not have a solicitor and would like an introduction, we will be pleased to introduce one.