Detailed examination of the facts of the case is essential to get an understanding of each person’s legal rights.
If two people live together but do not marry then on their separation they could face a number of difficult legal issues depending on their circumstances.
If they have children the parents will need to agree the future living arrangements for those children and other issues regarding the welfare and upbringing of the children (such as education, religion, etc). They will also need to agree or seek orders for financial support for the children. For further information see Disputes Over Children and Financial Provision for Children.
If there are no children, the starting point is that neither party will have ongoing financial obligations towards the other, and they will be able to keep whatever assets or income they have in their sole name. This is very different from the position on divorce. Cohabiting couples do not acquire the right to claim capital or maintenance payments against the other, no matter how long they live together.
A separating unmarried couple will ordinarily divide any assets held jointly in accordance with their legal ownership. In certain specific cases, however, one of the parties can argue that he or she should receive a bigger share than the actual legal ownership of an asset. This argument will usually focus on the parties’ home. Typical examples of such circumstances are:
- When one party has put in substantial capital to the property which is not reflected in the legal ownership; or
- One party has made a promise to the other that he or she will have a legal ownership in the property but then does not carry out that promise and the other party acts to his or her detriment.
This area of law is notoriously complicated and the partners in Hughes Fowler Carruthers have unparalleled experience in these matters. Detailed examination of the facts of the case is essential to get an understanding of each person’s legal rights.