Unmarried Couples Rights / Cohabitation Agreements

Unmarried Couples Rights

Unmarried couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples, and the idea of a 'common law wife' or husband does not have any legal recognition in England.

Many people live with a partner but aren't married. In these circumstances it is important to understand what your legal rights are in the event of a separation.

Our specialist family lawyers can advise you on all aspects of the law including those in relation to finances, property and children.

Finances and Property

Unmarried couples are treated as two separate individuals in law, meaning that you may not have any automatic entitlement to a share of the property you live in, or other financial assets, depending on how the legal ownership of those assets is made up.

As an example, in some cases a property may be legally owned by only one party, even though the other party may be paying towards the mortgage or other costs, such as when one person has moved in with the other who already owned a property. If this is the case then you will need a specialist family solicitor to try and negotiate a financial settlement with your partner. This may be done through direct negotiation or through Court action if required.

It will be necessary to show that you had some sort of agreement (which can be either verbal or written) with your partner about how the assets would be divided on separation. You will also need to show financial records, such as bank statements, showing that you did in fact make a financial contribution.


We can help in making arrangements for children, such as who they will live with and what sort of contact they will have with the other parent.

In some cases, fathers may not automatically have what is legally known as Parental Responsibility. We can advise them on this and help to obtain it through the Courts where required.

Unmarried Fathers Rights to contact with their Children

If you have a child and you are not married to the child's mother, we can advise you on your legal right to see your child. We can also advice you on related issues such as financial maintenance and who the child should live with.

It is generally accepted in law to be in the interests of children to have regular contact with both parents and the legal process promotes this type of balanced arrangement.

We can assist you to come to an arrangement with the child's mother about who the child will live with and how much contact the other parent should have. This can often be done through negotiation, however in some cases Court action will have to be taken. Court action can result in a 'Contact Order' which will state exactly when the child will spend time with the non-resident parent. This can include taking the child to the other parents home, visits to the child at home, activity based contact, overnight stays and holidays.

Child financial maintenance is a separate issue which should not become entangled with the issue of contact with the child. In some cases, the mother may stop contact between the child and their father due to maintenance not being paid. If this is the case we can assist you. Contact with your child is not dependent on payments of maintenance and the child has a right to contact with both parents, regardless of finance.

What is Parental Responsibility?

Parental Responsibility is the legal term used to describe who has the rights and obligations in making decisions which affect the child's life. It includes the following legal rights and responsibilities:

  • Providing a safe home for the child
  • Living with the child
  • Naming the child
  • Choosing the child's religion
  • Agreeing on the child's health and medical care
  • Consenting to medical treatment for the child
  • Disciplining the child
  • Protecting the child
  • Responsibility for the child's property
  • Choosing and providing for the child's education

Simply being the biological father of the child does not always mean that you have an automatic right in law to parental responsibility. Similarly, if you are listed as the father on your child's birth certificate, this does not always mean that you have automatic parental responsibility.

Parental responsibility becomes important if you separate from the child's mother and you are not married to her. If you do not have parental responsibility then you do not have a legal say in the child's upbringing.

Whether or nor you have automatic parental responsibility depends on a number of factors including when the child was born, whether you are married to the child's mother and whether you are listed on the child's birth certificate.

If you do not have automatic parental responsibility then it may be possible to obtain it through a family lawyer.

More information can be found at www.familysolicitorsrotherham.co.uk

Contact us arrange a consultation with one of our solicitors.