Separation Options for Unmarried or Cohabitees

When a couple want to separate there are options open to them to deal with the breakdown of their relationship, to make the best arrangements for their children and to resolve financial issues between them. The options open to couples in this situation are as follows:

Unmarried couples are often called cohabitees. They are often also called “cohabitants” or “common law husband and wife”. This often misleads partners in these sorts of relationships to believe they have similar legal rights to married partners. They do not. This is a particular area of concern now because more and more couples are living together and often raising families outside marriage.

It is hoped that the law will change to help cohabitees in the future. The Law Commission published a report in July 2007 but this was not taken any further.

Same-sex couples who cohabit and do not enter into a civil partnership are in the same position as unmarried heterosexual couples.

The Civil Partnership Act 2004 came into force on 6th December 2005. This enables same-sex couples to register their relationship in a similar way to marriage and brings with it increased rights in relation to children and property amongst other things. NB: The process for dissolution of a civil partnership is the same as for divorce. The only exception is adultery which is a specific legal term relating to heterosexual sex. The partnership can be brought to an end by dissolution (divorce by another name). If your partner is unfaithful the grounds for dissolution would instead be unreasonable behaviour.

The facts that can be used to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the relationship are (b) – (e) above under divorce. The court will have wide powers to make provision for financial relief that corresponds with what is available upon breakdown of a marriage. The Domestic Violence, Crime and Victims Act 2004 brought same-sex couples within the definition of “cohabitants” and therefore able to apply for non-molestation and occupation orders.

You do not need a solicitor to get divorced but it is always advisable to seek legal advice in relation to financial matters. Some solicitors now operate a fixed fee scale of charges. Legal aid is no longer widely available for divorce proceedings although if you are seeing a mediator and are legally aided you will be entitled to Help with Mediation if you instruct a solicitor who undertakes Family Legal Aid work.

National Family Mediation (NFM) is a network of professional family mediation providers based in England and Wales that work with families affected by relational breakdown. All providers aim to help clients achieve an outcome that works best for them and their family

If you would like to get more information about mediation and/or make an appointment you can contact NFM direct on 0300 4000 636 or you can contact a NFM family mediation provider in your area.

All services also take referrals from Solicitors, the court or other helping / support agencies.



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Help and support or separated familes