Legal rights of couples who live together

27th April 2018

This decision affects the entitlement of one partner to the other’s estate upon death, to a share of the property upon separation, and to parental responsibility of any children.

Inheritance and intestacy

Cohabiting couples will have no automatic right to each other’s assets upon death, which is why it is vital to make wills if you live together unmarried with your partner. Intestacy rules, which come into play when somebody dies without making a will, dictate that, when no will has been made, assets will be passed on to the next of kin, or even the Crown when no family member can be found.

cohabiting couples will have no automatic right to each other’s assets upon death

Mirror wills may be suitable for couples who have similar or identical wishes.

Children and parental responsibility

Mothers automatically have parental responsibility for any children they have and cannot lose it, except through adoption.

However, an unmarried father does not have automatic parental responsibility for his child. Though as of 1 December 2003, he will have it if he registers the birth with the mother.

If you are an unmarried father and do not have parental responsibility through jointly registering the birth, the easiest way to get it is to make a parental responsibility agreement with the mother (this can also be done through a court order in scenarios where the mother doesn’t agree).

A form for setting up a parental responsibility agreement can be downloaded from the government’s website.  Once you have filled it in you should take it to your local County Court or family proceedings court to sign it in the presence of witnesses. You should take the child’s birth certificate and proof of your identity to the court.

Two copies of the form, once completed, should be sent to:

Principal Registry of the Family Division
First Avenue House
42-49 High Holborn
London
WC1V 6NP

Property

If you buy property as an unmarried couple, then it is advisable to purchase it jointly. Should a cohabiting couple split, if the property in which they lived is only in the name of one of the partners, the other will have no automatic right to any share of it.

If you buy property as an unmarried couple, then it is advisable to purchase it jointly.

So if as a cohabiting couple you have been effectively sharing the property but it is placed in only one of your names, the other party could seriously lose out.

However, even if you do not have joint ownership of your property, you may be able to demonstrate that you are entitled to a share of it through ‘common intention’, which means there was an agreement between the couple that the property was shared. You could achieve this if you contributed financially to the purchase of the property or helped with mortgage payments, for example.

If this is contested by your ex-partner, however, you may have to go to court.

Cohabitation or living together agreements

A cohabiting couple can have their relationship legally recognised by drafting a cohabitation (or living together) agreement. Such a document can formalise the couple’s rights and responsibilities towards each other, and make things more clear cut in the event of the relationship coming to an end.

A cohabitation agreement can cover such things as:

  • How the paying of the mortgage, rent and different bills will be split between you.
  • Details of any debts owed by either partner and how they will be dealt with.
  • What would happen to property if the relationship were to end, as well as items bought together.
  • Arrangements for children, either existing or planned, and what would happen with regard to them if the relationship were to end.

These agreements can be enforced legally if they are written in the correct manner and signed by both parties, as they constitute a contract between the couple. Therefore, as the parties will be obliged to act as set out in the agreement, it is advisable to have your agreement checked by a solicitor.

Term-time holidays: fines for taking children out of school go up 93%

The summer holidays are fast approaching and the allure of cheaper holidays during term time is rising. However, schools are taking a much harder line when it comes to issuing fines to parents who take children out of school early.

June 2019 Learn more
The closure of the workplace childcare voucher scheme: what you need to know

On Thursday 4 October 2018 the government will close the childcare voucher scheme to new entrants; here’s what you need to know.

October 2018 Learn more
Children’s parties – when merriment turns to misery

What happens if things go wrong and someone is injured at a party? Are parents and guardians legally responsible for making sure the venue is safe?

June 2018 Learn more

Read more from the DAS Law blog

General advice How your dog could get you in trouble with the law

With ‘dangerous dogs’ back in the news, DAS Law’s Sarah Garner tells you what you need to know about a pet owner’s rights and responsibilities.

July 2019
General advice Your legal rights if you have private photos leaked

The UK Government has laws in place to combat ‘revenge porn’ and the sharing of private sexual materials with the intent to cause distress or financial gain, so what can you do if you find yourself in a similarly compromising situation?

July 2019
General advice Understanding the law on facial recognition software

National Surveillance Camera Day has raised many important issues regarding the role of surveillance cameras in modern Britain. One particularly controversial topic is the use of facial recognition software to spot criminals.

June 2019
General advice , Holiday disputes Term-time holidays: fines for taking children out of school go up 93%

The summer holidays are fast approaching and the allure of cheaper holidays during term time is rising. However, schools are taking a much harder line when it comes to issuing fines to parents who take children out of school early.

June 2019
General advice 7 things you should know about driving fines

Millions of motorists across the UK are committing driving offences they did not know existed. Robert Hodson looks at the law around some of the most common offences.

May 2019
Family disputes , General advice , Property disputes Everybody needs good neighbours. But what can be done if someone refuses to be neighbourly?

April 2019
General advice Don’t let the law come calling when using your mobile phone while driving

Sam Phillips, a trainee solicitor at DAS Law, gives us the low-down on the law on mobile phones and driving.

April 2019
General advice If your engagement doesn't have a happy ending, who gets the ring?

If your fiancé(e) or unexpectedly breaks off the engagement, who gets to keep the engagement ring?

February 2019
General advice , Motorcycling How to fight a parking ticket

There are a number of important differences between parking tickets from the local council and those enforced by private companies. DAS Law has the lowdown on parking tickets and tells you how to pursue a dispute and avoid paying penalty charges.

February 2019
General advice , Protecting your business 6 things you need to know about missing the 31 January self-assessment deadline

With 31 January deadline fast approaching, HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has warned that 5,542,000 taxpayers have still to complete their Self-Assessment tax returns. What can you do if you miss the deadline?

January 2019
General advice , Property disputes Ho-ho-home invasion: is Father Christmas trespassing?

When he enters your home, is Father Christmas actually trespassing? If he does so without your expressed permission, could he be prosecuted?

December 2018
General advice Beware the perils of sharing colleagues’ Christmas party antics on social media

Are people allowed to record and share your more embarrassing moments without your permission? What does the law have to say?

December 2018
General advice The school nativity – danger in the manger?

Antony DiPalma, solicitor at DAS Law, looks at the photographic minefield of the school nativity play.

December 2018