It is increasingly common for couples to live together outside of marriage. This may be through choice or because marriage is not possible, for example where one of the couple is still married to someone else or in the case of a gay couple.
In view of the traditional emphasis on marriage, it is not surprising that the law relating to couples living together outside marriage has developed much more slowly than the law relating to married couples. However, there have been significant developments over the years, and the Civil Partnership Act now allows same-sex couples to register their partnership.
If things go wrong, then the law can provide assistance in a number of areas including the following:
- In cases of domestic violence, injunctions can be sought to protect the injured party.
- If there is a dispute over occupation of the home, it may be possible to apply for an “Occupation Order”. For further details see our page on Separation.
- If there is a dispute over ownership of the home or other assets, the courts may be able to help, but their powers are very limited compared with the powers they have on a divorce. For further information see our page on Financial Issues.
- Disputes over children – See our page on Children.
- The Civil Partnership Act provides remedies to registered partners on the breakdown of their relationship.
In some circumstances it would be wise to consider your legal position while you are happily living together, rather than only in the event of things going wrong. This is especially so in the following two cases:
- If there is any property which either or both of you own or intend to purchase. If often makes sense to specify clearly the shares in which such property is owned, and what will happen in the event of your separating. This can sometimes be done by way of a simple Trust Deed or Memorandum of Agreement which we can prepare for you. You should also consider making a Will (see below).
- If there are children of the relationship. Where the parents of a child are married to each other, then both have what is known as Parental Responsibility (which broadly means all the legal rights and duties which parents have in respect of their children, including the right to make decisions about their child’s future). Where the parties are not married the mother will always automatically acquire parental responsibility and, (as a result of a recent legislative change) in respect of births registered after 1 st December 2003, the father will also automatically acquire it if his name is on the child’s birth certificate. If the father does not acquire parental responsibility automatically, he can acquire it by entering into a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother and registering it with the court, or in the absence of agreement the father can apply to the court for a Parental Responsibility Order.
We would strongly advise you to make a Will. If you die without having made a Will your estate will pass to your next of kin and not your partner. We can prepare a Will for you.
If you wish to discuss these or any other matters relating to your living together, then telephone us on 01332 293293 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org to arrange to meet one of our solicitors. We give an initial 30-minute consultation free of charge.
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