LEEDS OFFICE 
Trading as Avery Walters Ellis Solicitors 
 
HARROGATE OFFICE 
Trading as Powell Eddison Solicitors 
 
Cohabitation
The popularity of couples living together continues to increase. What hasn’t changed is the legal position of unmarried couples. Common Law marriage is a myth regardless of the number of years you have lived together or if you have children together. 
 
The home 
If the family home was owned in the name of one partner then the other partner does not have an automatic right to remain at the property or have a share in it. 
 
If the family home is owned in joint names then this affords some protection. However, the way the home is owned jointly can make a big difference. 
 
The terms of a will can also impact on the joint ownership of the property. 
 
Money 
There is no legal duty on either partner to financially support the other during the relationship or on separation. 
 
This is different to the duty to support any children of the relationship. 
 
Equally unmarried couples do not have a right to share money or investments, businesses and property. 
 
Debts 
Debts in one partners name remain their debt. Danger can arise if the other partner is a named second card holder on an account or HP is taken out on behalf of the other partner. 
 
Children 
Where a child is born to an unmarried couple only the mother automatically has Parental Responsibility for a child born to the relationship. 
 
The mother’s partner may acquire Parental Responsibility if he is named on the birth certificate for the child or mother enters into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with father or a court order. 
 
There may be an obligation to pay child support for a child of the other partner where that child has been treated as part of the family and has previously been financially supported. 
 
If child care arrangements cannot be agreed between the parties on separation then either party may apply to the Court for a child arrangement order. 
 
Death 
Unmarried couples have no automatic right to inherit on the death of the other partner. So unmarried couples need to make a will. 
 
IHT exemption available to married couples does not apply to unmarried couples. 
 
Claims may be brought against the estate of the deceased partner if the couple lived together as husband and wife for at least 2 years or the surviving partner was financially dependent on the deceased. 
 
Claims are complex and expensive especially if defended by other beneficiaries. 
 
Protection 
A cohabitation Agreement allows the couple to decide precisely what the position will be financially during their relationship and on separation. 
 
A Will will help them provide what the position is on their respective deaths. 
 
Agreements should be reviewed especially if children are born to the relationship after the agreement has been signed. 
 
The existence of an agreement and Will reduces the likelihood of disputes, legal proceedings and expense. 
 
An agreement can cover issues such as arrangement and ownership of the family home arrangements for the children and parental responsibility, management of joint bank accounts and payment of household outgoings and financial arrangements on separation. 
 
Our role is to explain the position if unmarried couples separate or one partner dies and then to advise them how they correct the short coming of the law and afford themselves fair protection. 
 
Contact our team on 0113 2007480. 
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