Living together – your rights
'Common Law Marriage'
Unmarried couples often mistakenly believe that they will become
common law husband and wife and have the same rights as a married
couple. There is no such thing as a
common law husband or wife in the laws of England and
If you are living together as a couple, but are not married,
your rights are governed by the laws of property, which can be
complicated and often result in a different outcome to that that
you had anticipated and you may think that it is
Our family lawyers are experienced in resolving matters around
unmarried couples' property, finances and children. If you are
going through a split and are not married, getting sound legal
advice about your rights could be essential.
Before you move in together...
If you are currently living together or planning to do so in the
near future take our advice to ensure your rights are properly
protected. You could avoid expensive and upsetting litigation later
by considering these matters in advance and discussing with an
experienced family lawyer what can be done.
As you set out on the path of living together you should
carefully consider the implications of doing so. There is no
specific law governing your rights when living together. It
is important for you to consider at the outset certain financial
and property matters so as to ensure that you are both in agreement
about them. If you do not, they may become the subject of
disharmony within your relationship or could even be the cause of
you splitting up.
Consider who owns what at the moment. For example, the house you
are to live in, other property, cars and furniture. How are
the running costs of these things to be met? How will any of
them be replaced when they wear out? If somebody contributes
towards the running costs or replacement costs will they acquire a
share of the ownership of that item? All of these
things need to be considered.
If you have children would this alter things? What if
somebody became ill or was unable to work and financially
contribute as they had done previously? These are some of the many
things you should consider and discuss between you.
Make an agreement now to avoid disputes in the future
If you are to live together whilst unmarried, a Living Together
Agreement can be prepared. If you propose to marry or enter into a
civil partnership it is possible to enter into a Pre-Nuptial
These agreements record your intentions and may avoid any
misunderstandings in the future. At the present time
agreements like this between married couples are not fully
enforceable in the courts. However, this does not mean that
drawing up an agreement is worthless. On the contrary, the
courts are extremely likely to take this kind of agreement into
account when making decisions about the provision for couples whose
relationships have broken down.
Make a Will
Always consider making a Will. It is never too soon to
make a Will. None of us like to think about dying but putting
off making a Will may only complicate things for your family in the
event of your untimely death.
Making a Will is particularly important for couples who are not
married. When someone dies without making a Will (called dying
'intestate'), the Rules of Intestacy apply to their estate. Only
married or civil partners, and some other close relatives can
inherit under the Rules of Intestacy. If you are not married to
your partner, and do not have a valid Will, your partner will not
be entitled to inherit anything.
Do you need advice about living together or splitting up after
If you need advice on making a Living Together Agreement, or if
you need advice on your rights after a split, our family lawyers
can help. Call us on freephone 0800 422 0243, or
complete our contact
form and we will call you back.