Am I Entitled to My Partners Assets if We are Not Married?

Author:
James Skinner
Associate Solicitor, Family Law and Divorce
Date:
25/11/2019

In England and Wales, unmarried couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples or those in a civil partnership, when it comes to separation or dividing financial assets. However, you may still be able to make a claim depending on your circumstances.

Unmarried couples who live together, known in law as ‘cohabiting’, are the fastest growing family type, doubling from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2017, according to Office of National Statistics research.

When an unmarried, cohabiting couple decide to separate, sometimes after years of living together and building a life together in the family home, the implications can be significant and the division of assets can be far from straightforward.

Sadly, relationships also end due to the death of one partner, and again the legal and financial implications can be significant on the surviving partner when the couple were not married.

For initial advice get in touch with our national team of Family Law Solicitors.

Call us on 08002605010 or request a callback and we will help you.

Assets in Separation - Family Home and Property

Unmarried couples can’t claim ownership to each other’s property in the event of separation. This can be a tricky area because ‘property’ can refer to many different things that you’ve both come to own during your relationship.

Jointly owned assets, such as items of furniture, are usually split 50/50.

Often, the largest and most significant property comes in the form of the home you’ve lived in together. Whether or not you have a claim over this property can depend on various factors, such as:

  • If the property is rented
  • Joint ownership or Tenants in Common
  • Sole ownership

Rented Property

Often, one partner will move into the other’s rented house, in which case that partner has no automatic right to stay in the house; however it may be possible for you to apply for an Occupation Order through the Court so you can remain in the property.

Joint Ownership

It’s not uncommon for unmarried couples to buy a house together. As co-owners you have two ways to own the home:

  • Joint Tenants
  • Tenants in Common

As Joint Tenants you will be entitled to a half share of the value of the property, regardless of the financial contribution you made.

As Tenants in Common, you will each have to specify your interest in the property at the point of purchase. If you didn’t make a Declaration of Trust (see below) then it’s best to speak with a Family Solicitor as soon as possible because each person’s financial contribution towards the property is a major consideration in the event of a separation.

By holding a property as Tenants in Common, you can leave your interest in the property to someone other than your ex-partner under the terms of your Will in the event of the death of one partner.

Sole Ownership

If your family home is held solely in your partner’s name, you will have no automatic right to a share in the property. In order to make a claim on the property you will have to provide evidence demonstrating that you:

  • Made a financial contribution directly towards the property
  • That you and your partner were in agreement that you would have an interest in the property in the event of a separation or death
  • That you and your partner had an agreement that you would be entitled to a share in the property.

This is a difficult area of law and you will need to provide solid, documented evidence proving you were able to make a financial contribution.

Children in Separation

If children are living with you in the property, then the Court can decide if it is in the best interests of the children that you stay or not. If the Court decides that it is in their best interests, then you have the legal right to remain in the home until the youngest child is 18.

Common Law Marriage Doesn’t Exist

Since common law marriage has not existed in UK law since the 18th century, an unmarried couple can never be ‘common law married’.

The only way to share the same legal rights as a married couple is to get married. Even if you’ve lived together for a long time and have children, and have bought a home together, the only way to have any legal protection when it comes to financial assets and children is to get married.

How Simpson Millar Can Help You

Various solutions exist and can be handled by one of our Family Law Solicitors. We can assist you with:

Setting Up a Cohabitation Agreement

This is effectively putting a plan in place in advance of any future separation or termination of the relationship. A Cohabitation Agreement documents issues such as who lives in the family home and financial support. When you have put a Cohabitation Agreement in place this means that you can avoid drawn-out and difficult arguments in future and can protect the position of the financially weaker partner.

Our Family Law Solicitors can help you draw up a Cohabitation Agreement, so you can be sure that if you’re unmarried and separate in future, the interests of you and your children will be protected.

Declaration of Trust

A Declaration of Trust reflects the fact that one of you may put in more money than your partner when the property was purchased, and therefore should receive more money when the property is sold.

It's an implied agreement between two (or more) people who live together and relates to their financial contributions towards a property. Getting legal advice is advised when buying a property together as you can agree in advance and remove uncertainty in the event of separation.