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I'm separating from my partner, we're not married, what are my rights?

I'm separating from my partner, we're not married, what are my rights?

There still prevails the myth of common law man and wife. Increasingly in the 21st century couples live together as if married but without going through a formal ceremony of marriage. Many believe that after a certain length of time, they acquire the same rights in law that apply to married couples, both while they are together and upon the dissolution of their relationship.

Unfortunately this is a myth. For example the rules of intestacy and relating to the next of kin should one party die, do not apply where a couple is not married.

When the relationship ends, the unmarried couple does not have the benefit of being able to apply for maintenance, lump sum, property adjustment or pension sharing orders which are available to married couples who are divorcing.

For this reason it is important to consider the position both at the time of entering into the relationship, particularly if purchasing property together, and upon separation.

When an unmarried couple enters a relationship or when they intend to purchase a property together, the terms of the relationship can be regulated in a Living Together Agreement. No one wishes to contemplate the possibility of their relationship coming to an end when it is new and both are very much in love. It might appear cynical, pessimistic and unromantic. However, statistically a considerable proportion of relationships, both married and unmarried, do end and there are usually financial consequences to consider. By entering into a living together agreement a couple can provide for how their financial contributions will affect the division of their joint assets if they later decide to separate. For example, if one partner contributes a large sum of money to pay off a mortgage, they may wish to provide that if the house is sold in the future, that party should receive back their contribution before the remaining proceeds are shared.

Although it may not be pleasant to think about, a living together agreement can avoid considerable argument, distress and legal costs in the future.

In the absence of a living together agreement, the unmarried couple that separate have to agree how their assets are to be divided. Each of them retains their own asset, that is those that each has bought on their own with their own money, but those which are bought jointly, or with joint money, must be divided by agreement. This is particularly important in relation to a jointly owned home. If the home is held in both names and both parties have contributed equally to the purchase price and to the mortgage payments, then each party is likely to receive half.

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