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Do unmarried couples have the same rights as married couples?

Many unmarried couples live with the assumption that if they have cohabited for a number of years they have similar legal rights to those couples that are married. This myth is normally referred to as ‘common law wife or husband’. This is not the case and the courts will not take into account the length of time you have lived together or even if one of the parties has contributed to the household by raising children and being responsible for the running of the family home.

This obviously causes a problem when a property is in the sole name of one of the parties. If the property is registered in the sole name of one of the parties, the person who is not named will have to prove that they are entitled to an interest in it. There are various ways to show that you have an interest in the property. Firstly, is when the owner of the property told you that you have an interest when the property was purchased or when you moved into the property. You should have also contributed to the property by financial payments i.e. payment of or towards the household bills or the mortgage. A second method of obtaining an interest is by way of implied intention. Intention can be ‘implied’ if the other party has contributed towards the purchase price usually by the way of contributions towards the mortgage or the deposit of the property. The courts may find implied intention when the parties finances are simply pooled and all household payments are met from that account. A further method of obtaining an interest is if you have provided a substantial contribution to the property for example by paying for a home improvement.

Disputes also arise when the property has been registered in joint names. These disputes tend to arise when one person refuses to leave the property or refuses to agree to the sale of the property. This can stop the parties being able to move on following separation. Advice can be given as to each of your rights in respect of access to the property, how to affect a sale without the consent of the other party or even on purchasing the other party’s interest in the property.

How can Stephensons help?

Contact our specialist team to obtain advice in respect of the options available to you should a dispute arise, or even in the event you simply require advice prior to any forthcoming separation. We will strive to reach a solution to your case and every attempt will be made to make the agreement without the involvement of the courts. Other alternative methods are available such as mediation which can provide an independent setting for you to discuss your options with your ex-partner, friend or family member. If an amicable settlement cannot be reached we are of course able to represent you at the courts to obtain the outcome you desire.

Should a dispute arise we would suggest you seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity to ensure that the breakdown of your relationship does not result in the loss of your home and other assets. 

Areas of specialism

  • Advice following separation from an unmarried partner
  • Separation agreements to confirm a settlement
  • Court action to enforce rights
  • Dealing with Trustees in bankruptcy
  • Cohabitation agreements
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