We’ve Split Up but We’re Not Married - Am I Entitled to My Partner's Assets?

Posted on: 4 mins read
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Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

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In the UK, there are around 3.6 million couples that are living together but aren’t married. More and more couples are now shunning marriage in favour of just living together.

Even though living together offers couples freedom and flexibility, it doesn’t give them the same level of protection that a civil marriage does. If you and your partner split up, civil marriage laws mean that assets, such as the family home, money and possessions are split between the two, as fairly as possible.

But what happens to couples who just live together?

Many unmarried couples believe that there are laws in place to support common law marriage. But, regardless of how long you’ve been with your partner, whether it’s 2 weeks or 22 years, in England and Wales, common law marriage doesn’t exist.

Speak to our Family Law Solicitors to find out where you stand, or keep reading this article to get an overview of what the law can do to protect you as an unmarried partner.

What Rights do I Have to my Partner’s Assets if we’re not Married?

If you’re not married and you and your partner split up, you won’t have many rights to their assets. Even if you’ve lived together for a long time, you have children and have bought a home together, the only way to get exactly the same legal protection over your assets as marriage gives you, is to get married.

These next few sections cover what rights you do have to the main assets that you’re likely to share as a couple, and also what things you can do to protect yourself as much as possible, should the worst-case scenario happen.

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What Rights do I Have to my Property if we’re not Married?

The biggest asset you’re likely to share when you’re in a committed relationship is your home. You want to make sure that you’re not left without a roof over your head, or out of pocket.

What happens to you and your home after you split will depend on the following:

  • Whether you own your home or you’re renting it
  • If you own it, whose name is on the property deeds, or if you own it jointly
  • Whose been paying the mortgage, bills or any other costs associated with the property

What Happens if you are Joint Homeowners?

If you’ve bought the property and own it jointly, so both of your names are on the property ownership papers, you should be able to keep living there and also be entitled to half the value of the property. This is regardless of how much money you contributed to it when you bought it.

What Happens if Your Home is Owned by Your Partner?

If you share your home but it’s in your partner’s name, you won’t have any automatic rights to stay there or receive a share of the sale proceeds.

But you may be able to fight this if you’ve contributed to mortgage payments, bills, or any renovation work. Our team of Family Law Solicitors are on hand to help and support you through the process if this is a situation you find yourself in.

What Happens if you’re Renting Your Home?

It works in a similar way if you’re renting your home, unfortunately. If the tenancy agreement is in your partner’s name, then you won’t have an automatic right to live there once you split.

You can apply for what’s called an Occupation Order from the Court, which might allow you to stay living there, even if your partner wants you to move out. But applying for one isn’t always easy as there are a lot of different factors that need to be considered.

What Rights do I Have to Money in our Shared Bank Account if we’re not Married?

It’s common for couples to set up a joint bank account and use it to pay for things like bills, food shopping, house maintenance and holidays so, if you split up, what rights do you have to that money?

Put simply, if you have a joint bank account, then both of you will have access to the money that’s in that account, regardless of who pays what into it. But, if you can’t decide how to split it, which might be tricky if one of you paid in more than the other, then you might have to ask the Courts to decide.

What Rights do I Have to our Shared Possessions if we’re not Married?

There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to shared possessions like a three-piece suite, white goods, or any other furnishings you might own. But the basic rule of thumb is that each item belongs to whoever paid for it. If you paid for items jointly, then it can get tricky if you can’t agree on how to split them. Again, if your partner is refusing to share what you believe is partly yours, then we could negotiate your case for you, or suggest mediation as an option. This would mean you’d be able to settle the matter without the need to go to Court.

The best thing to do if you find yourself in any of these situations is to seek legal help as soon as possible.

But, if you’re not in the middle of a nasty break-up and want to make sure that you avoid this type of difficult and stressful situation in the future, then there is something you can do to protect yourself and your rights to any shared assets.


The rights of cohabiting partners - Women and Equalities Committee (no date). https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5803/cmselect/cmwomeq/92/summary.html

Lorkins, G.A. (2019) 'What is an Occupation Order? | Simpson Millar Solicitors,' Simpson Millar Solicitors. https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/family-law-solicitors/what-is-an-occupation-order-in-uk/

'How Does Mediation in Divorce Work UK?,' Simpson Millar Solicitors. https://www.simpsonmillar.co.uk/family-law-solicitors/divorce/how-does-mediation-in-divorce-work-uk/

Lorraine Harvey

Partner, Family Law

Areas of Expertise:
Family Law

Lorraine is a Partner at Simpson Millar, specialising in Family Law for over 20 years.

She handles middle to high net value cases, including pension claims and complex trust, and also advises on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial agreements.

Lorraine has unrivalled knowledge of public sector pensions, in particular police pensions, having advised police officers on pension claims for two decades.

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