The legal rights of unmarried couples. By Martha Koumbas

29th December 2014

The legal rights of unmarried couples. By Martha Koumbas

Your Local Family Law Specialists, by Martha Koumbas

Hi there, my name is Martha Koumbas and I’m a Trainee Solicitor at Chapman Pieri Solicitors. I joined the firm in September 2013 and en-route to qualification as a Solicitor in March 2016.

For my first article I thought I’d write about the legal rights of unmarried couples on relationship breakdown as it is an area of family law which is highly misunderstood.

More and more couples are choosing not to marry but to live together and raise a family in the same way that a married couple would. Whilst you may not need a piece of paper to prove your commitment to one another, the legal consequences should your relationship come to an end are significantly different if you are unmarried. Many have the misconception that a ‘common law marriage’ exists. This is a myth as Matrimonial Law offers no such rights to unmarried couples. It is therefore essential that you plan for the future and ensure that you have as much financial security as possible. Unless there is a valid Cohabitation Agreement setting out what is to happen upon separation, the law is not favourable to unmarried couples when it comes to financial redress.

What rights do you have on relationship breakdown if you are an unmarried couple?

Maintenance: On separation, you cannot claim maintenance from one another. However, if there are any children of the family and they are living with you, you can claim financial support from your ex-partner either through the Child Maintenance Service or the Courts in limited circumstances.

The Family Home: Property held in joint names Where the family home is held in joint names, you can both make an application to the Court for the property to be sold and for the sale proceeds to be divided if a sale cannot be agreed directly between the two of you. The position is easier when the family home is jointly owned as you both have a legal entitlement to the property.

Property not held in joint names: Where the family home is held in the sole name of one of you, the position is more complicated and the property will usually be retained by the person who owns it. However, even if you are not the legal owner of the property, you are able to make an application to the Court for the property to be sold and for you to acquire a share of the sale proceeds. This can be difficult as you must prove that you have a beneficial interest in the property by producing evidence that, for example, you contributed towards the purchase price or that the property was intended to be owned jointly by the two of you. So if you are buying a property together but buying in unequal shares then you should seek advice from your conveyancing solicitor who can advise you about a Declaration of Trust. This is a legally binding document setting out what share you have in the property in the event of separation.

Joint bank accounts, joint savings accounts or joint investments: Any accounts or investments held in joint names should be divided equally by agreement. If an agreement cannot be reached, then an application to the Court can be made for the Court to make a decision as to ownership.

Generally, any assets in your sole names will be kept by the person in whose name they are in. However, if there are children of the family and they are living with you, the Court can make a provision of housing for them and order a transfer of capital or property in your favour for that purpose, usually until the children reach 18 years old.

Here at Chapman Pieri Solicitors, we can advise you on all aspects of relationship breakdown whether you are married or unmarried. Please call 020 8882 9850 to book in an initial consultation for just £75 plus VAT.

Should you require any further information, please give us a call here at Chapman Pieri Solicitors on 020 8882 9850 to set up an Initial Consultation or alternatively you can email us at: Please have a look at our website where you will find a lot of helpful information:


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As featured in our December 2014 Palmers Green & Southgate LIFE magazine