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Do married couples have the same rights as unmarried couples?

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On a divorce or dissolution, married couples/civil partners have a right to a fair share of any assets that they or their spouse owns. The Court will have discretion to consider the circumstances and history of the relationship to make an order. The Court will look at various factors, including the needs, ages and contributions of each spouse.

The court can order the sale or transfer of property; pension sharing orders, a transfer of shares in a business, for one party to pay the other maintenance, a lump sum payment. This is not an exhaustive list of the various orders that could be considered on the breakdown of a marriage.

There is no similar law governing the rights of cohabitants, regardless of the length of cohabitation or relationship. Therefore the protection for cohabiting couples on the breakdown of a relationship is limited to the laws of property or, if there are children, Schedule 1 of the Children Act. The number of co-habiting couples has risen by at least 30 in the last decade.

This means on a relationship breakdown, cohabitants may not be ordered to support their former partner financially with maintenance nor will one have rights to the other’s assets including bank accounts, pensions or even property owned in one party’s sole name unless they can establish a beneficial interest in that property.

Without any proper protection, a cohabitee can be at risk of becoming liable for bills they cannot afford alone if their partner suddenly moves out or their relationship breaks down.

Disputes regarding property and asset ownership and being left without a home can arise should the relationship come to an end.

We at Emery Johnson Astills can provide you with advice on how best to protect yourself if you are cohabiting or if you are considering separation. Should you require our assistance please do not hesitate to contact the family team on 0116 2554855 to arrange an initial fixed fee appointment.