Many couples who live together assume, or have been led to believe, that they have the same legal rights in relation to their children and their finances as married couples if their relationship breaks down. Unfortunately, this simply is not the case.

For example, both married and unmarried parents can claim child maintenance in the same way. However, as a spouse, you may also be able to claim monthly spousal maintenance payments if your income and child maintenance are not sufficient for you to meet your outgoings, which you cannot do if you are not married. 

Furthermore, when a married couple are divorcing, the courts have wide-ranging powers to transfer money or property from one spouse to the other to ensure that the financial needs of their children are met. If you are not married, you can seek a capital lump sum but the court's powers to grant you one are a lot more limited.

Cohabiting couples should also bear in mind that only the mother will automatically be treated as their child's parent in law. The father will need to either be named on the child's birth certificate or enter into a written agreement with the mother.

For more information, please see our article on cohabitation here: http://www.freethsoxford.co.uk/living_together_how_is_it_different_to_marriage

If you need advice on any of the legal issues relating to living together, please get in touch on 0845 404 1715.