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Cohabitation and Children

There is a common misconception that if you live with someone that you are automatically in a common law marriage. That is untrue.

If you are not married or in a civil partnership, you likely have less rights than you may think if you should separate from your partner. This is the case even if you have children together.

When parties divorce or dissolve their civil partnership, the law sets out how property, pensions and income are to be divided between the couple.

When you cohabit and then separate, there is no such law. For example, if you live in your partner’s property, you do not have an automatic right to stay there or to claim a share in their property, even if you have children together who live there with you. To make a claim against the property you have to prove that you have a legal claim based on monetary contributions or sometimes promises that were made which lead you to act in a different way.

If the house is in your joint names, again, you do not have an automatic right to stay there, even with children. The court could decide whether the house is sold or whether one party should buy out the other’s share. Having children together is just one factor the court can consider; it is not the overriding factor as it is in a divorce.

If you have children together your partner has a duty to support them by paying child maintenance but they do not have a duty to support or house you.

You might be able to make a claim under Schedule 1 of the Children Act. The court is able to make additional financial orders but only for the benefit of the child and not your support. The support usually ceases once the child has reached 18.

The court will consider the financial circumstances of each parent and the financial needs of the children. Any disability/additional needs of the child will also be considered.

Schedule 1 cases are usually where one parent is wealthy or the child has a disability. The court could order that the parent with care can live in a particular property until the child is 18. At that point it will revert to the legal owner. The court can also make lump sum orders for the payments of school fees.

If you find yourself separating from your partner, it is essential that you seek legal advice as these issues are often complicated. Contact Dunn & Baker Solicitors for your free initial consultation and to see if we can help you:

Exeter 01392 285000    Cullompton 01884 33818 

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