Supporting you through the most delicate of family matters

Even though you will share the same financial worries and concerns about your children’s future care as a married couple, if you are a separating unmarried cohabiting couple, then you do not have the same rights. Cohabitation and Separation agreements can help you reach an agreement that is beneficial for all parties.

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What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

For unmarried couples who decide to live together, it is a good idea to agree in a legal document known as a Cohabitation Agreement who owns what, how household bills will be met, how the assets will be divided and what arrangements will be made to support the children in the event of the relationship breaking down.

The Family Law team at Sweeney Miller are experienced in dealing with a wide range of issues when unmarried couples split enabling them to draft a comprehensive Cohabitation Agreement that covers most eventualities, avoiding problems in the future.

What is a Separation Agreement?

If there is no Cohabitation Agreement already in place, then the most straightforward way of dealing with an unmarried split is through a Separation Agreement. This is a legally binding agreement that sets out how your property, assets, together with any debts will be dealt with and can include certain arrangements for the children.

As there can be complex family issues and assets to consider, it is important to get specialist advice from a family law solicitor. The Family lawyers at Sweeney Miller regularly advise on all aspects of Separation Agreements, helping to negotiate the fairest result that enables everyone involved to move on with their lives.

Unmarried couples and property

If there was no Cohabitation Agreement, the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act, sometimes known as ToLATA, gives Courts the powers to help resolve disputes between unmarried couples who own property together when they split.

Whilst the Court can order a sale of the property, who can live there or clarify the share of the property, it cannot change a pre-existing Declaration of Trust in place which confirms the ownership or the proportion of the property each of the couple owns. Our Family team can help you navigate the complex issues surrounding unmarried couples and property, taking steps to avoid Court if at all possible.

Sweeney Miller also has a separate conveyancing team who can deal with the sale of any property following an unmarried split.

What about pensions and assets on separation?

Unmarried couples generally don’t have a claim on each other’s pensions. Assets are viewed in a similar way by the Courts – you own what you paid for – unless it can be shown that an item was a gift, in which case the recipient will be able to claim ownership.

What about the children?

It is important that unmarried parents have Parental Responsibility for their children – this is the right and responsibility to look after the child. Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility and since December 2003, an unmarried father whose name is on their child’s birth certificate automatically has it. You can apply for Parental Responsibility if:

You are the father, but your name is not on your child’s birth certificate
You are the father and named on your child’s birth certificate, but your child was born before December 2003.

Rules for occupying a property or making a claim for a share in a property are more complicated when you have children, too. Contact our Family Law Solicitors for advice about Parental Responsibility and how to manage your assets with your children’s best interests in mind. Sweeney Miller’s child custody lawyers can help with matters such as agreeing on child contact and child arrangement orders.

If you are not married and go on to separate, it is important to review any Will that you have made. If you never had a Will, then your ex may be able to claim on your estate if you die. We work closely with Sweeney Miller’s team of wills and probate solicitors who can make sure that your wishes are met after the split.

With offices in Sunderland and Newcastle, our divorce solicitors work with clients across the North East. For a no-obligation first discussion please get in touch using the phone numbers below or by emailing or using our contact form.