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Legal Advice for Unmarried Couples

Unmarried couples

Family Law & Divorce Solicitors
Family Law & Divorce FAQs 

Legal advice for unmarried couples

Many couples buy a home or move in together without getting married. However, the legal rights of unmarried couples significantly differ to those who are married.

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Busting the myth of 'Common Law Marriage'

A common misconception regarding cohabiting couples is that after living together for a number of years, or having children together, they are considered to be in a 'common law marriage'. However, there is not an automatic entitlement to make a claim in respect of capital, spousal maintenance or a pension if you are not married to your partner. The family home may not be divided as it might be in divorce proceedings, and cohabiting couples do not have the same protection as a married couple would. Instead, a property dispute may occur and trust and land law is applied in this situation.

Preventing future disputes

We can help you avoid future disputes in the event of the breakdown of your relationship.

  • Declaration of Trust
    If you are an unmarried couple or you are buying a property with a friend, relative or business partner, you could enter into a Declaration of Trust. This document accurately records what share of the property you and the co-owners own and what contributions have been made.

  • Cohabitation Agreements
    A Cohabitation Agreement sets out how property, capital and assets are owned and how they should be divided upon separation.

  • Updating your Will
    If an unmarried person dies without making a Will, the other party has no automatic inheritance rights. It is therefore important to ensure that unmarried couples have up to date Wills.

Has your relationship already broken down?

Disputes upon separation can relate to:

  • the ownership of your property
  • who is responsible for paying the mortgage or household bills
  • the amount of time you are able to spend with your children or who a child should live with
  • maintenance payments

The Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (ToLATA) applies in disputes about land. Certain criteria must be met in order to be successful in these claims, therefore specialist advice is essential.

How we can help

Whether you're the claimant, defendant or a third party, we can advise you in a range of circumstances such as:

  • ToLATA proceedings (an Order for sale or a constructive trust claim) including up to and during trial and also those which settle by way of a mediation

  • claims for proprietary estoppel

  • resulting trust claims

  • severing a joint tenancy to ensure that your share of the property does not pass to your ex-partner by way of survivorship

  • possession of a property which may be in dispute

  • disputes in respect of your children or maintenance

  • claims for financial provision for the children from your ex-partner, including Schedule 1 applications

Why choose VWV?

We are specialists in dealing with cohabitee disputes and our team has a vast range of experience in this area. We are able to review your matter at an early outset so that we can agree on the best strategy for a swift and cost-effective resolution.

Unmarried separations and disputes in relation to property and finances are dealt with in the civil court, not the family court. We are unique to many other firms who deal with these disputes because our Family Law team has expertise in the Civil Procedure Rules. It is vital to instruct someone with experience because tight deadlines are set by the civil court and must be followed once proceedings have been issued.

Legal advice following the death of your partner

If you have recently lost your partner and have not been left sufficient provision in the Will, we can provide expert advice in respect of any claim you may have under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

Alternatively, you may be having problems obtaining key information from the executors of your ex-partner's estate. We are able to provide specialist advice to you in respect of these matters.

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"Lucy Barr makes sure the clients are in a better position than when they started. She is excellent and knows the law back to front."

  • Chambers & Partners 2024

To find out how we can assist you, please contact our New Enquiries team on 020 7405 1234 or complete the form below.

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Meet the Team

Our experienced family law and divorce solicitors can advise you on all aspects of your relationship, a relationship breakdown or even a new relationship.

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Samantha Hickman - Family Law & Divorce Solicitor in Bristol - VWV Solicitors Law Firm
Lucy Barr - Family Law & Divorce Solicitor in Birmingham - VWV Solicitors
Bindu Malkan

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