It is a common myth that cohabiting couples have the status of common law husband or wife and the same rights as if they were married.
In England and Wales the rights given to cohabitees remain substantially limited to issues relating your children and your property. Whilst the starting point for a cohabiting couple is that you retain assets in your own name it may be possible to establish a beneficial interest in a property held in your cohabitee’s sole name or indeed more than a 50% share when a property is held in your joint names.
This area of law is notoriously complicated and we would urge you to take specialist advice if you are in any doubt as to your rights on separation if you are unmarried. The position may not be as straight forward as it seems and the team at Prince Family Law have extensive experience in dealing with claims to establish rights/interests in property whether in joint or sole names (under the Trust of Land Act or Trust Law generally).
It is possible to manage your arrangements prior to living together by entering into a Cohabitation Agreement. It is often the case that one person moves in to live with another person in a house they own with no initial intention of acquiring an interest in that property. If this is something you are considering it is important to take specialist advice to ensure that you protect your property and ensure that a beneficial interest cannot be established in your property by your cohabitee should you separate.
Financial Matters Between Cohabitees Relating to Children
Cohabitees do not have the same rights as married couples on divorce regarding children. Child maintenance must be dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service unless the non resident parent is a non UK tax payer or a maximum assessment has been carried out by the Child Maintenance Service. In those cases the resident parent can pursue periodical payments for the children under Schedule One of the Children Act 1989 through the Court process.
Schedule One of the Children Act can also be used by separated non married couples to claim Lump Sum Orders for specific items for example provision of a car, furnishing a property or to meet various items of expenditure. The Court can order a settlement of property or transfer or property to provide a home for your child during their dependency and other costs associated with your child for example school fees.
Whilst once considered an area of the law just for the wealthy as the number of couples cohabiting increases claims under Schedule One of the Children Act are considered a powerful tool for meeting your children’s needs regardless of wealth.
Our team at Prince Family Law have been involved in Schedule One Children Act cases at all levels to include two recent cases involving fathers who were extremely wealthy businessmen. Substantial awards were obtained for the resident parent with provision being made both for a home for the child, motor vehicles, furnishings, school fees and substantial periodical payments.
If you are unmarried and in any doubt as to your rights on separation please contact our experienced team and arrange a free 30 minute interview.