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What are the financial rights of unmarried couples?

As the law stands, the financial rights of unmarried couples are limited. It is a myth that somebody can become a common law spouse if they have lived together for a number of years. If a couple is not married, there is no entitlement to maintenance (income on an ongoing basis) or to a share of the other’s assets no matter how long they have been together for. A person who has enjoyed a particular lifestyle, living in their partner’s house and with their partner meeting the day to day living costs may find themselves in a difficult financial position on separation as the financially stronger party is not obliged to provide housing nor to continue meeting living expenses.

That said, there are two indirect options to consider.

If there are children, they may be able to claim child maintenance from their partner and depending upon circumstances, they may be able to obtain an order to be provided with accommodation for them and their child until the child turns 18. However the house is normally returned to the party who has provided it once the child turns 18.

Another option to consider is whether you have or have acquired an interest in property belonging to a partner due to agreements reached and the way you have conducted your finances. This however can be a complicated area of law which is very fact specific and requires specialist legal advice.