The concept of ‘common law marriage’ is nothing but a widespread misconception. Nevertheless, many people still believe that when they have been in a relationship for a significant period of time, particularly if children have been born, they would have acquired rights over their partner’s assets by virtue of the time they have shared their lives.
This is, simply, incorrect.
Although the law in respect of unmarried couples is not exactly straight forward, the truth is that upon the breakdown of the relationship couples who live together do not automatically have a financial claim against their ex-partner. This can be particularly upsetting and concerning in cases where one of the parties may have bought a property in their sole name, which was intended to be the home for the family or where one of the parties has worked as a home maker throughout the relationship, as that person will not be entitled to any form of financial maintenance.
Generally speaking, financial claims between former unmarried partners will normally be limited to each party’s financial contribution towards the family home and other financial affairs.
Cohabitants should ensure that they receive appropriate legal advice, especially before purchasing a property together, to ensure they are not left exposed in the event of the breakdown of the relationship. A cohabitation agreement will provide more certainty by setting out how financial matters are to be dealt with in that case.
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