It may come as some surprise that cohabitees do not have the same rights as married couples, even if they have cohabited together for many years. The idea of a ‘common law marriage’ is a myth. The Courts in England and Wales treat cohabitees completely differently to spouses.
Obviously there will be no divorce proceedings upon separation, but your finances are still likely to be intertwined and require dividing up appropriately. When a married couple separate, the starting point is that each spouse will receive half of the total pot of matrimonial assets, subject to change if one party’s needs are significantly greater than the other’s. However, when a cohabiting couple separate, the starting position is that they each retain assets in their own name. This can cause difficulties where, for example, one partner purchased the house in their own name whilst the other invested time in improving and maintaining it. Or if one partner works whilst the other stays home and looks after the house.
The non-owning partner can claim that they are entitled to a share of the asset if they contributed to the purchase price or added significant value, but this will turn on the facts of the case and is sometimes at the Court’s discretion. If children are involved, the non-resident parent will still have a duty to financially support the child upon separation, regardless of whether the parties were married or not.
It is possible to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement with your partner to regulate your affairs whilst you are together and even to make arrangements for any separation. The Agreements can be entered into amicably with the advice of a specialised family lawyer.