Do I have any 'Common Law' partner rights when separating in the UK?

If you have lived with your partner for a significant period of time and even have children together, you might expect to have certain rights to each other’s property. However, ‘common law’ partner rights when separating do not exist.

It is a common misconception that someone can have a ‘common law’ wife or husband and there is in fact no legal status for couples who have lived together, no matter how long you may have done so. ‘Common law’ partner rights have not existed since 1753. However, there may still be other legal considerations if you and your partner are splitting up.

If you’re going through a separation and need legal help, get in touch for a chat with our family law solicitors.

Please note: We are a company based in Manchester, United Kingdom, and can only assist in family law matters to those living in England and Wales. 


Common Law Partner Rights When Separating


What will happen with our shared finances if I don't have any common law partner rights?

You don’t need to be married in order to have opened a joint bank account, but it worth considering that if you have opened one then you are financially linked. This then puts you at risk because, in the event of a break-up, your partner can empty the account and there is nothing that you will be able to do in order to get any money back.

If your partner has a bad credit score, this could also then impact on your own if you have a shared account. If you have accumulated any debts that are in both of your names, then you will also both be responsible for paying these.

Do I have any common law partner rights to our house?

If you live with your partner and are not married or in a civil partnership, then you are legally considered to be a cohabiting couple. If you’re splitting up, you don’t have the same rights as you would if you were married, as unmarried couples generally can’t claim ownership of each other’s property. This applies both to the house and also to any furniture that you may have bought together.

If you’re going through a divorce, read about your different property rights here

The option of a Cohabitation Agreement

If you are an unmarried couple and planning on moving in together, we can help you draw up a cohabitation agreement that will give you legal protection over your property in the event of a separation. Do not count on having ‘common law’ partner rights when separating.

Having this document will mean that each of your ownership rights are clearly stated before you move in together, and any later stress can be removed. Contact us today for help with this, or just a chat to discuss the best option for you.

Who has parental rights?

In the event of a split in a relationship of an unmarried, heteronormative couple, the mother will always have parental responsibility for any children. In this couple, the father will have no rights unless:

  • They have attended a joint registration of the birth
  • They have gone to court and one parent has used a court order to register the birth and give the father parental responsibility
  • They have completed a statutory declaration of parentage – one parent completes this, and the other takes the signed form to register the birth

For any of these options, the parents do not need to have been married in order to have added the father’s name to the birth certificate, and the child can take either parent’s surname.

The parental rights of same-sex couples are more complex due to the different legal rights of the individuals as parents and will likely require specialist help.

If you are an unmarried couple who are splitting up, ‘common law’ partner rights when separating will not protect you. Get in touch for a more detailed conversation about the legal implications for your children.

Who is responsible for financial support of our children?

Even if not married, you are both legally responsible for providing financial support for your children.

Even if one parent is not named on the birth certificate, and they no longer live with the child or children, they can still be contacted by the Child Maintenance Service for maintenance funds.

Contact us if you need any advice and help with your separation

Taking the decision to split up is an incredibly difficult one for any couple and being unsure of your legal standing in the situation can make you even more concerned about the process.

If you are confused about ‘common law’ partner rights when separating and don’t know what you may be entitled to in your separation, we can help guide you through all of the different factors to consider and help you focus on moving into the next phase of your life.

Get in touch with us today.

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