Unmarried couples’ rights are very different from the law which applies to a married couple or a couple in a civil partnership.  In property law cohabitees are treated very differently and they have very different rights in respect of maintenance or pension sharing for example.

Do please realise that there is a fundamental legal difference between (1) a couple who live together and (2) a married couple or a couple in a civil partnership. The law treats these two situations in very different ways. A married couple or a couple in a civil partnership are treated in exactly the same way in the event that they seek a divorce or the dissolution of the civil partnership. Two people who cohabit (whether of the same or different sexes) without marrying or entering into a civil partnership are treated in a different way. And that is the same no matter how long they have lived together. There is no such thing as a ‘common law wife’ (or husband) so far as the law is concerned.

This distinction is very important. Especially now that couples can enter into civil partnerships it is often unclear whether when a person refers to his/her ‘partner’ that means ‘wife’, ‘husband’, ‘civil partner’ or cohabitee. These distinctions may matter little to the people concerned but they matter a great deal in their legal consequences.

This firm does not usually become involved in legal disputes between cohabitees. Our work relates only to divorce or the dissolution of civil partnerships. To find out more about the legal position which prevails between cohabitees (ie two people who live together outside ot marriage and without entering into a civil partnership) then do please read on. Many people do not wish to marry or enter into a civil partnership and there are very good reasons for that choice which may be made very deliberately. The following pages give a brief summary of rights for unmarried couples and the rights of cohabitees.

Please read on for more information.


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