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Legal Protection for Unmarried Couples

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24 January 2020

Legal Protection for Unmarried Couples

No one can predict the future, and as unpleasant as it sounds, knowing your legal rights if you are an unmarried couple who are living together, can be essential. 

This is because unmarried couples who live together do have different legal rights to married couples. There is a difference in unmarried couple legal protection as well as overall responsibility towards each other if the relationship does breakdown. 

JWP, family solicitors in Pontefract provide further insight into unmarried couple rights and legal protection if the relationship does end in separation. 

General Information 

Living together as an unmarried couple means you are considered in the eyes of the law as “cohabiting.” 

In addition, no matter how long you have been together or how long you have been cohabiting for, in the UK, you are still not classed as “Common Law Married,” no matter how many years have passed. 

The only way to get the legal rights of a married couple is to get married. 

Rights and Responsibilities 

Cohabiting couples have no financial obligation to each other if they separate, i.e., you have no legal responsibility to support your partner once you part ways financially. 

However, where children are concerned, child support may be payable and will be subject to review by the Child Maintenance Service in England and Wales. 

When it comes to parental rights, mothers will automatically have parental responsibility for their children. Unmarried fathers, however, don’t. The only way parental responsibility can be achieved by both parents jointly registering the birth, with both names appearing on the birth certificate. 

Unmarried couples need to consider and plan parental responsibility carefully, taking everything into account. Jointly registering the birth helps to provide an additional layer of security for the children involved. 

Note: Parents don’t need to be married for the father’s name to go on the birth certificate, and the child can take either parents surname. 

Wills are also a big consideration for unmarried couples. This is because cohabiting couples have no automatic right to inheritance if their other half dies without a will. 

Claims and grants of probate can be applied for to contest legal rules; however, this can be an extremely lengthy process and very costly. 

Making a will together, outlining who belongings, property, finances, etc. should be left to if the worst were to happen, helps to avoid confusion and complications later on. 

To help keep finances fair, most married and unmarried couples will open a joint bank account. Sharing expenses and keeping everything on an even keel in the relationship. 

However, opening a joint bank account means you become financially linked, and if you do separate there is nothing stopping one partner clearing out the account and very little the other can do to get the money back. 

Note: Joint accounts can also affect your credit score, especially if your partner has a poor credit rating. 

When it comes to property rights, unmarried couples do not have any ownership rights over each other’s property in the event of separation. 

Nor do they have ownership rights over any items such as furniture, etc. 

The only way a couple can protect themselves from these situations is by putting a Cohabitation Agreement in place. 

A cohabitation agreement, to some degree, gives back some rights and responsibilities to unmarried couples, making things much more straightforward in the event of a breakup. 

At JWP solicitors, we understand that relationships, unfortunately, break down and sometimes not everything is as straightforward as it seems. 

For many unmarried couples we work with, we will often look to avoid court situations where possible, avoiding any battles and further conflict. 

Instead, for many unmarried couples who have separated, the first step in resolving the “who gets what” questions, can be through mediation. 

Mediation can help to provide a much calmer setting and also looks at providing a much fairer settlement for both parties. It is also carried out without the presence of a judge and is seen to be much more human (which can be very beneficial in separation cases). 

Mediation is also much more cost-effective and flexible, with cases closed and settled in a much shorter time frame. 

As specialist divorce solicitors in Pontefract, JWP Solicitors are on hand to provide you with expert legal advice when you need it most. 

Contact us on 01977 790 029 to find out more. 

Amanda Steele