It is a common misconception that if a couple live together for a period of time, they will acquire ‘common law’ rights which will provide the same matrimonial rights as those of a formally married or civil partnership couple.
The law, as it presently stands, does not confer any of the rights that are acquired between a formally married or civil partnership couple on partners who have been living together.
The financial rights and obligations of a couple who have lived together and wish to separate are radically different, even if you have children together. With our expertise we can help you come to the best arrangements if your relationship breaks down.
For couples who are considering moving in together, we provide specialist advice to assist in setting out the rights and obligations when considering this major commitment.
There are some important questions we are often consulted about, and may be relevant to you:-
Your Questions Answered
My partner and I are thinking of moving in together...
The number of people choosing to live together (legally known as cohabiting) is increasing. Not surprisingly therefore, Cohabitation Agreements are now very popular, setting out the financial rights and responsibilities within the relationship.
Cohabitation Agreements are much like Pre-Nuptial Agreements and are useful in preventing future litigation and consequential legal fees.
My partner and I are separating, having lived together for some years. Do I have any rights over their money and do they have to help me with the debts I owe?
Unlike married couples, a couple who are living together have no legal duty to look after one another financially, unless of course they have entered into a Cohabitation Agreement which makes provision for this. Accordingly, you and your partner are each legally responsible for your own debts and your share of any joint debts.
Additionally, there is no right to maintenance from your former partner.
My partner and I have children together, is there anything I should do to protect my position as we are not married?
The legal status of a parent to their child is known as Parental Responsibility. Fathers who are named on the Birth Certificate of children whose birth was registered on or after the 1 st December 2003 automatically gain the legal status of Parental Responsibility.
However, fathers who are not named on the child’s Birth Certificate (or those who are named on the Birth Certificate, but whose birth was registered before the 1 st December 2003), and who are not married to the child’s mother do not automatically acquire Parental Responsibility, and are therefore obliged to either agree this with the child’s mother or make an Application to the Court.
For more information you will need specialist advice .
My partner and I are separating, what is going to happen to the house - do we have equal rights?
When the relationship between cohabitating couples breaks down, their property rights remain wholly unaffected. In other words, the property rights remain exactly the same following the split as they were before.
The legal owner of the house, the person who paid for it and has their name on the title deeds will continue to remain the owner of that property. Contributions made by the non-owning partner may be taken into account, but the contributions must be significant. A non-owning partner may also make an Application under the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act to assert their interest in the property.
If the cohabiting couple have children an Application can be made under the Children Act for both income and capital for the children only. Please refer to our section relating to Children .
How much is it going to cost?
The legal costs depend on the length of time it takes to reach agreement both in respect of the divorce and the division of the family finances. However, at Crisp & Co we pride ourselves on offering the most competitive rates for the best expertise, often charging only half the rates of similarly qualified solicitors.
We do understand that it is important that you know from the outset what your legal fees are likely to amount to. For this reason we provide each and every client with a bespoke costs plan and time estimate from the very first appointment with regular updates as needed.
For those clients who have a need to limit costs to a certain sum, we are also offer a ‘pay as you go’ service, whereby work is limited to a certain cost limit set by the client.
You will not be charged for your initial appointment at Crisp & Co. We can find out what your needs are and how we can help you and also give you an estimate of your likely overall legal fees, including expenses and VAT. Contact us for more information.
What should I do next?
Get in contact with us. We have offices located around London and the South East. Call or email us now to arrange your free initial one hour consultation.
Is there anything I need to bring with me to my first appointment with Crisp & Co?
It is useful if you provide us with:-
- Your passport or photo identity driving licence plus another proof of identity with your name and address, such as a recent utility bill.
- Any letters or documents that have been sent to you by your partner/husband/wife’s solicitors.
- Any documents that have been sent to you by the Court.
Don’t worry if you cannot provide the information listed above at the first appointment, this can always be given at a later date. However, the more information you can provide us with, the better we will be able to advise you.