Family Law Solicitors

Unmarried Couples’ Rights

Being in an unmarried relationship where you live together can often leave you unsure of your legal rights. Many individuals presume that after living together for a significant period, you are in a ‘common law partnership’, but legally there is no such thing in England and Wales. This means there are often limited rights for unmarried couples

At Laker Legal, we can support clients who are unsure of their legal rights, as well as those requiring assistance during the breakdown of a relationship. The team have worked with clients needing support with all levels of legal issues, including those that are more challenging.

Our solicitors can provide pragmatic advice on unmarried couples’ rights issues including:

  • Cohabitation agreements
  • Buying property with your partner
  • Separation agreements
  • Provision for children

Our expert team can assist clients using various approaches, including alternative dispute resolution and court proceedings held at County Court and High Court. No matter your circumstances, our solicitors can advise on your rights and support you where necessary.

Our family team are recognised by the Law Society Family Accreditation Scheme, with many of the team also being members of leading family law network Resolution.

Contact us for specialist advice on unmarried couples’ rights

If you require advice on unmarried couples’ rights, please get in touch with our family law solicitors. Our head office is based in Lancaster, but for your convenience, we have consulting rooms in Maidstone, Bath, Kings Hill Preston and York.

You can simply complete our online contact form or request a call back. Our dedicated team will start by gauging the specifics of your situation to determine your needs, then provide bespoke legal support.

Our unmarried couples’ rights expertise

Cohabitation agreements

Unmarried couples do not have automatic legal rights to each other’s property and assets. However, there are ways to secure rights for unmarried couples against the risk of you and your partner separating or one of you passing away. This is done through a ‘cohabitation agreement’.

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding document which can cover who owns assets and how they will be split should the relationship break down, or one partner dies. It can also cover issues such as how bills will be paid and matters concerning children.

Cohabitation agreements are also sometimes referred to as living together agreements.

Should you be interested in making a cohabitation agreement to cover these important matters and provide legal rights in an unmarried relationship, our solicitors can help. We can guide you through the process, including advice on the benefits and limitations, so you get an agreement to suit your best interests.

Find out more about our cohabitation agreement services.

Buying property with your partner

There are two ways to purchase a home with another person, by being joint tenants or tenants in common. Which method is chosen significantly impacts unmarried couples’ property rights.

What joint tenants means is that both parties own the property 50/50, and should one party sadly die, ownership of their share is automatically transferred to the other party. This is termed the principle of survivorship. Whereas with tenants in common, each party holds a distinct share and will not have ‘right of survivorship’ unless stated in each person’s Will.

Our solicitors can guide you through your legal rights in concern to the family home, particularly where disputes arise during separation. We can also provide specialist assistance with residential property transactions to make sure you buy property in the best way for your situation.

Separation for unmarried couples

If you are in an unmarried couple and are planning to separate, we encourage speaking to a legal professional, particularly in cases where you jointly own a home, share possessions and/or have children together. Understanding rights for unmarried couples at an early stage can increase your chances of separating on terms that match your needs.

Our solicitors have considerable expertise in assisting cohabiting couples with separations, so can provide seasoned advice on unmarried couples’ rights during separation. 

Provision for children

Unmarried couples have the same legal rights and responsibilities for their children as couples who are married, as long as both parents have legal ‘parental responsibility’ for their children. This will usually be the case if both parents are named on a child’s birth certificate, but things can be more complicated, so it is important to check this so you are clear about your rights.

In the event of separation for unmarried couples, child arrangements will need to be agreed upon between the involved parties. This is often done through out-of-court approaches such as private negotiation and/or mediation. If no amicable agreement can be made, it may be necessary to apply to the court for a legally binding child arrangements order for the court to make a decision.

Our solicitors recognise how emotionally charged child arrangement matters can be for parents and strive to provide the utmost sensitivity throughout. We will carefully assess your circumstances and provide the best option for success, ensuring both your and your children’s best interests are met.

Find out more about our child arrangement order services.

Frequently asked questions about rights for unmarried couples

There is a common misconception that couples who live together and have been in a relationship for a significant period of time are ‘common law partners’ and have the same rights as those who are married.

When a couple is unmarried and lives together, the law considers them as two separate individuals meaning that there are no automatic legal rights for unmarried couples.

Even when one person from an unmarried couple dies, the other party does not have any automatic right to inherit a portion of their deceased partner’s estate. It is therefore important to create a Will to secure unmarried couples’ inheritance rights.

To have legal rights to their deceased partner’s estate, an unmarried person would need to be named in their partner’s Will. However, if they owned their home as joint tenants, then they would automatically inherit their partner’s share.

If an unmarried partner died without a valid Will or didn’t name their partner in their Will, the surviving partner’s legal rights would be limited and, in most cases, non-existent.

An unmarried partner may be able to make a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975, but this is only where they relied on the deceased financially or had been living with the deceased for at least two years prior to their death.

When an unmarried couple splits, matters can become incredibly challenging, especially when they own assets together.

However, there can be rights of unmarried couples living together through a cohabitation agreement. Meaning matters can be sorted following the terms set within. But should there be no cohabitation agreement, unmarried couples have no rights to each other’s assets, including property.

If one party contributed financially to their partner’s property, they might be eligible to claim an interest in it. It is wise to speak to a solicitor about your legal rights in situations like these.

Contact us for specialist advice on unmarried couples’ rights

If you require advice on unmarried couples’ rights, get in touch with our family law solicitors. Our head office is based in Lancaster, but for your convenience, we have consulting rooms in Maidstone, Bath, Kings Hill Preston and York.

You can simply complete our online contact form or request a call back. Our dedicated team will start by gauging the specifics of your situation to determine your needs, then provide bespoke legal support.


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Thank you for all your help and support over the last 12 months. You and the team at Laker Legal have been fantastic.
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A devastating event brought us to call on Laker Legal. We were put in touch with Mr John Hirst, and from the first moment we spoke to him we knew everything was going to be ok. Mr John Hirst, was always on the end of the Phone or Email, Kept in touch with us 100% of the time, and the support we received took so much pain off our family. All i can say is Thank you so much for everything you did for us.

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Jess was fantastic, in her communication during the process as well as her knowledge and ability during the conveyancing process. She helped me make informed decisions and ultimately find and purchase a wonderful home near Bath. Jess is adept at spotting potential issues during a purchase that I believe others may not.

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I am very pleased with Laker Legal firm, my Solicitor John Hirst, was extremely helpful throughout the drawing of my prenuptial agreement. A very professional and knowledgeable approach yet warm,and friendly enough to feel comfortable with in a situation that can be quite uncanny to discuss or uneasy as per say. Thankyou again!

Mrs V – London

Jessica Blacow from Laker Legal Solicitors Lancaster pulled out every stop truly amazing lady / firm nothing was to much trouble I honestly felt like they was my friends not just a firm that wanted your money but a solicitor firm that cared with compassion I will use Laker Legal Solicitors Lancaster for all my needs in the future.

Mr T, Lancaster

I can highly recommend John Hirst at Laker Legal solicitors in Lancaster. He was superb from start to finish dealing with a very complex child arrangements case for me. A really decent guy and an excellent family law solicitor who genuinely cares about his clients. John was fully up to speed with my case at all times and we got the outcome we wanted.

Mr B, Kendal

A big ‘thank you’ Richard from Steve and myself. Your time and attention you gave to both of us was remarkable. I’ve had dealings with many solicitors over the years, but have never received this level of service as you gave.

Mrs R – West Malling, Kent

Thank you so much Richard, you have been so kind and patient with me when I have been at about the lowest point of my life after losing my wife, I can never thank you enough. I will also let my family know my wishes that Laker Legal Solicitors deal with my estate when that time comes.

Mr Y, Addington, Kent.

Best conveyancing experience ever. After two supposedly good law firms failed to even do the basics post instruction, for nearly 8 weeks, Jess at Laker Legal took on the difficult challenge of overseeing my purchase and completion in record time. Always proactive, very knowledgeable of her subject and extremely good communicator. I never had to chase the firm for anything. They always answered my calls efficiently. I can't praise them enough. What a wonderful experience.

I recommend Jess and would be very happy to use her again in the future.

Mrs A, Lancaster.

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