Separation Rights of Unmarried Couples

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Nobody likes to think about a relationship separation, but unfortunately this is the case for many romantic partnerships. Separation in a legal marriage or civil partnership is different from separation by two cohabiting individuals. Unmarried couples are seen as individuals in the eyes of the law, so unless the couple shares legal ownership, one person may not have any legal rights to any financial assets or share of property. If children are involved, both the father and mother have legal rights to the children, but the process of establishing parental responsibility can be more complex than for married couples.

Financial Rights

Unmarried couples have no legal rights regarding finances, except if it can be proven that an agreement was made previously clearly stating how financial matters will be decided in the event of separation. In most cases, each person has financial rights only to what is legally his or hers.

Property Rights

Unlike married couples, unmarried couples who choose to live together do not share equal rights to the property they live in unless it was bought in joint names -- or if they signed a cohabitation agreement. In such cases, things are split accordingly. This document outlines exactly how things will be divided in the event of a separation, and both parties must agree to the terms. If one person solely owns the property, then the other person has no rights to it unless he can prove that a verbal or written agreement was made or, in some instances, that he made significant financial contributions towards the property.


If an unmarried couple has children and separates, decisions regarding the welfare and upbringing of the child need to be made. Both parties have legal rights to any children they share, but in the majority of cases concerning unmarried couples, the mother is automatically given rights of sole parental responsibility, unless a Parental Responsibility Agreement was signed beforehand declaring equal rights to both the father and mother. However, the father has the right to apply to the court for joint parental responsibility, a residence order, so that any children may live with him. He can also apply for a contact order so he can see his children on a regular basis.

Rights After Death

In the event that one person in an unmarried relationship dies, the person left behind does not have any rights regarding financial matters and property. Because he was not married, the surviving partner is not considered related to the deceased and so property will automatically be given to the deceased person's immediate family, excluding any share of the property that was purchased jointly. However, if the person who passed away made a Will clearly stating that her partner should receive financial assets, the surviving partner may be entitled to full rights.


About the Author

Alice Ladkin is a writer and artist from Hampshire, United Kingdom. She has been writing professionally since 2008. Ladkin also runs her own pet portrait business.

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