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Cohabitation rights background


When a cohabiting relationship ends, there is not the same coherent legislation available to married couples or civil partners. Many cohabitants mistakenly believe that they acquire legal rights after a number of years of cohabiting, but this is incorrect. The myth of the ‘common-law spouse’ persists despite having no legal foundation. Many people are shocked to find that they have few legal remedies and those available are far from straight forward.

There are many of the same problems as when a marriage breaks down - how to sort out the finances and resolve issues surrounding the children. It is important to be aware of your cohabitation rights.

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Issues relating to children

Married couples automatically have equal parental rights for their children but the position for a cohabiting couple is different. Father's only have rights if:

  • The child was born on or after 5th December 2003 and his name is on the birth certificate

  • The mother has entered into a parental responsibility agreement with him

  • The Court has made an order for parental responsibility

The court can make exactly the same orders for residence in relation to the children of cohabitees as they can for married couples. 

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Financial issues and maintenance

There is no automatic right to a share of assets that are held in a partner's sole name. The only way you can obtain ownership of assets that are in your partner's sole name is by showing you made a contribution towards their purchase or after they were bought. Property disputes between the cohabitants are resolved using existing property and trust law and not family law.

Generally when cohabitants separate, neither party is entitled to receive or obliged to pay maintenance except for the child support maintenance for the natural children of the couple. If agreement can't be reached over payment of child maintenance, then an application to the Child Support Agency may have to be made.

Contact our team in East Cleveland for legal advice tailored around your specific situation.

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Are you in the process of ending a cohabiting relationship? Speak to Kathy Webb & Co in East Cleveland on 01287 633331 for sound legal advice.
We can let you know where you stand when it comes to separation

Free consultations available

Your free initial consultation offers you the opportunity to discuss any issues or questions with our trained solicitors, and it also allows us to assess your requirements and understand your individual needs.

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