Living together with your partner is often seen as an alternative to marriage or as a temporary arrangement.

Many couples believe that moving in with your partner creates a common law marriage, giving you the same rights as if you were married- It does not.

It is crucial to understand your legal rights and responsibilities. You may see this as being committed to each other as a married couple however the law doesn’t view it in that way.

Under martial law the courts have to take all the circumstances and history of the relationship into account and decide on a fair division. Cohabiting couples do not have an automatic right to benefit from each other’s retirement plans, or to inherit from each others property regardless of the number of years they have been together. If you both decide to have a child together there are no automatic parental rights. The property that you buy together isn’t automatically divided equally if you decide the relationship isn’t for you.

Perhaps it’s easier to walk away from an unmarried partnership however you don’t have the protections that are built into the divorce process. By the time people realise this, it is often too late- the relationship has broken down or a partner has passed and it is only then they realise they do not have any legal protection.

When cohabiting relationships break down there is very little protection. As a result, some cohabiting families can find themselves facing real difficulties should they split up, particularly when children are involved.

If you’d like to find out more information about the legal issues for cohabiting couples and the options available to you then you can get in touch with Caroline at caroline.swain@bpsfamilylaw.co.uk or by telephone 0161 926 1430.