More and more couples are choosing not to get married but to live with each other. For others it is a situation they have fallen into without really thinking about it. Contrary to public perception, there is no such thing as “common law marriage” and the same rules do not apply to you as they do to married couples. Separation is still just as emotionally difficult. Your assets may be just as entwined as if you were married. You may have children together. Since 2006 (which is relatively recent in legal terms) the law gives couples the right to make a claim against their partner in a situation where they have suffered economic disadvantage as a result of the relationship or their partner has suffered an economic advantage as a result of any contributions made by you. These contributions don’t need to be financial so could include contributions such as looking after the home, looking after the children, or giving up a career, for example.
There is a very strict timescale for making such claims. An application must be made to the Court within 12 months of the date you separated otherwise you will be barred from making such a claim. This means that you have a much shorter period of time to try and agree matters with your partner and so we would advise you to seek legal advice as quickly as possible.
We can also advise you in relation to making a claim should your cohabitee die without leaving a Will. Since 2006 cohabiting couples also have certain rights to make a claim on the death of their cohabitee. The timescales for doing so are even more strict, however, being six months from the date of death and so, again, we would advise you to speak to us as soon as possible.