The rights of unmarried couples living together

Unmarried couples do not have the same legal protection as couples who are married or in a civil partnership. Helen Cort, Legal Director at BDB Pitmans, sets out the legal position below.

What about ’common law spouses’?
It is a complete misconception that couples who live together for an extended period acquire legal rights that put them in a position akin to a divorcing couple or a couple dissolving their civil partnership.

Can unmarried partners obtain spousal support if they separate?
Unless the parties are married or have entered a civil partnership, unmarried couples cannot claim spousal support if the relationship breaks down. However, if they have children child support may be payable. In the first instance, parents are expected to agree the amount of maintenance to be paid for the children (a family-based child arrangement). If they are unable to do so then responsibility for determining the correct amount rests with the Child Maintenance Service.

Do unmarried couples have any rights if one partner dies?
There is no automatic right of inheritance. However, a surviving cohabiting partner may be able to make a claim from their deceased partner’s estate if they died without a will or their partner left a will but did not make adequate provision for them.

For further advice on any of these issues please contact Helen Cort in BDB Pitmans’ specialist family team in Southampton on 02380 837707.  

Cambridge | London | Reading | Southampton

Leave a Reply