Family law advice for unmarried couples

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Family law advice for unmarried couples

A growing number of couples are now choosing to cohabit without getting married. While this can be a good choice for lots of couples, it’s important to understand the implications for your long-term financial security if you later separate.

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Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a “common law marriage”, so no matter how long you have lived together, as an unmarried couple you will have no automatic legal right to each other’s property, assets or any kind of financial support if you split up.

It is therefore strongly recommended to take action to protect your future interests and avoid the risk of being left in a difficult position or having to deal with unnecessary conflict if your relationship were to end.

Our highly experienced family lawyers can advise you on the various legal options available for unmarried couples, including cohabitation agreements and declarations of interest in a property if you are buying a home together.

We can also assist with creating a separation agreement if you are planning to go your separate ways, making sure both of your needs are met and that you can end your relationship with the minimum possible stress or acrimony.

To speak to a member of our Family Law team about advice for unmarried couples or to arrange an initial fixed fee consultation, please contact your local IBB Law office in Beaconsfield, Reading or Uxbridge, or email

Why IBB Law are the safe choice for family law advice

We are not your typical law firm. Instead, we offer unrivalled legal expertise and an exceptional level of personal service, with particular experience in advising medium and high net worth individuals and couples.

Our Family Law team is led by Amanda Melton a highly experienced lawyer with particular expertise in complex and high value financial assets. Amanda has received praise in the Legal 500 for combining “exceptional professional knowledge with strong interpersonal skills” and for her “straight-talking approach and honesty about the potential pitfalls of a case”.

We are recognised as one of the leading teams of family lawyers in the South East, being ranked Tier 1 by the Legal 500 for Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Hertfordshire and Middlesex, and Band 2 ranked by Chambers & Partners for Watford, Uxbridge and the surrounding area.

How we can help you with family law for unmarried couples

Cohabitation agreements

A cohabitation agreement allows you to specify how a wide range of issues are to be dealt with both during the time you are living together and if you later separate. It can help to give both partners certainty and make things much easier if you ever do separate in future.

While cohabitation agreements are not legally binding, they can help you to avoid future conflict by making both parties’ intentions and requirements clear.

Issues commonly covered in cohabitation agreements include:

  • How your rent, mortgage and/or other bills are to be paid
  • What rights each of you has to the family home
  • How your assets will be divided if you separate
  • What, if any, maintenance either party will be required to pay to the other following a separation
  • What will happen to any children you have together

You can create a cohabitation agreement at any time, either before moving in together or when you have already been living together for some time.

Our family lawyers can help you to create a cohabitation agreement or review an agreement you have been asked to sign by your partner. We can also help you to review an existing cohabitation agreement if your circumstances have changed e.g. if you have had children or bought a new property together.

Buying a house with your partner

If you are buying a home with your partner it is important to consider whether to enter into a declaration of trust. This is a legally binding document that allows you to specify how the property is owned and can be useful in a number of circumstances.

Examples of situations where a declaration of trust may be useful include:

  • Where you are making unequal contributions to the purchase price or mortgage payments
  • Where one partner’s parents or other family members are contributing and want that contribution to be protected
  • Where only one partner will be named on the title deed, but both partners will be contributing to the purchase price and/or mortgage payments

A declaration of trust allows you to make it absolutely clear what each party will be contributing and what rights you have to benefit from the property, including how the proceeds with be divided if you later sell the property.

We can help you create a declaration of trust that protects your interests and secures your rights with respect to any property you buy with your partner.

Separation agreement

When an unmarried couple separates, the default position under the law is that they each get to keep their own assets and any jointly owned property will be split 50:50 (unless this has been expressed as being owned in unequal shares from the outset). There is no legal requirement for either party to pay the other any kind of financial settlement or regular maintenance to the other, except in relation to any children.

A separation agreement allows you to voluntary agree how your assets will be divided if you consider the default position to be unfair and/or not suitable to meet your needs or the needs of any children you have together.

Our family lawyers can advise you on creating a separation agreement, including negotiating the details with your ex-partner and their legal representative. If you cannot agree the details of your separation, we can help you achieve a positive resolution through methods such as family mediation.

Provision for children of unmarried couples

If you have children with a partner you are not married to or in a civil partnership with, you need to give careful thought to how your children will be provided for if your relationship ends. In far too many cases, parents do not think about this until it is too late, meaning they can end up struggling to meet their children’s needs following a separation.

Our family lawyers can discuss the various options with you, including creating a cohabitation agreement that makes provision for your children. We can also advise you on the suitability of measures such as creating a family trust, which can ring fence certain assets such as your family home for the benefit of your children.

Our family law fees

We aim to keep our fees clear and transparent, so will provide clear cost estimates at the start and throughout your case. There are various different fee structures we can offer to match your circumstances and goals.

Initial fixed fee consultation

We offer all family law clients an initial consultation at a reduced fixed fee. This is your opportunity to explain your situation and what you need to achieve. Our team can then discuss the available legal options with you and the likely costs involved, so you can make an informed decision about how to move forward.

Fixed fee family law services

Some aspects of family law mattes can be dealt with on a fixed fee basis. This means we agree a set price for carrying out a specific piece of work e.g. helping to prepare a separation agreement. You then have complete certainty from the outset over the costs involved.

Individual charge-out rates for family law advice

For other types of work, we can work to a pre-agreed hourly rate, charging you only for the time we spent dealing with your family law matter. This allows you to stay in control of the costs involved, while getting the exact level of support you need.

To find out more about our family law fees, please take a look at our pricing policy.

Speak to our family lawyers in West London, Buckinghamshire & the Thames Valley

For experienced, pragmatic family law advice for unmarried couples, please contact your local IBB Law office in Beaconsfield, Reading or Uxbridge, or email

    Cohabitation and Separation AgreementsDivorce and FinanceChildren matters

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