Very often you hear people say “well, they’ve been together for years and they have children so the partner must have acquired an interest in the property” or you hear the term “common law marriage” and the implication that this must mean something. Well it doesn’t – there is no such thing as common law marriage. You are either married or not married. If you are not married then you do not acquire an interest in anything belonging to the other party, however long you may have lived together, unless you actually take the trouble to put the house and any other assets into joint names. So, if a couple have lived together for years and have several children, but the house is in the sole name of the man, then the woman has absolutely no claim in relation to the house – even if she has paid the mortgage and/or brought up the children. The only claim would be on behalf of those children under Schedule 2 of the Children Act. This would be a claim made for support while the children remain dependent, generally up until the age of 18 or while they are in full-time secondary education. Any capital or housing provision made for those children ends when they reach the age of 18 and the capital would go back to their father.
So just a very small message, which I don’t seem to be able to repeat often enough – the mere fact of cohabitation does not convey any rights, however long you may have lived together and whether or not you have any children.
This also means that unless you make a Will leaving your assets to the partner, then if you are not married your partner will not receive anything – if you die without a Will then your estate passes under the Rules of Intestacy to your nearest relative, not your partner unless you are married. So being married makes a difference. Take it seriously!
For more information or to discuss further please contact Nicky Gough on 07711 527968 or email email@example.com.