Make sure your relationship status doesn’t put your rights at risk, says Paul Lewis
If you are in a relationship without being married or civil partnered then you have no rights at all over the other’s property.
There is no such thing as a common-law husband or wife in the UK. Many people think if they live together for a long time, have children and are committed life partners, the law gives them the status of spouses. It does not.
This matters, because your legal rights are very different if you are married or civil partnered than if you just live together in non-connubial bliss. If your relationship ends, or one of you dies without a will, the consequences can be extreme.
When you divorce or dissolve a civil partnership, the starting point in England, Wales and Northern Ireland is that you are each entitled to half the other’s wealth: your home (if you own it), your savings, your investments and your pensions are split down the middle. A pre-nuptial agreement, or even a post-nuptial one, can change that, but the courts may or may not take it into account. That can lead to legal battles that could cost as much as you are fighting over!
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If you are in a relationship without being married or civil partnered then you have no rights at all over the other’s property. That is true whether you have made four babies together or just redecorated the spare bedroom. It also applies on death if the person who dies has not made a will.
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In Scotland the rules are a bit more complex. The standard position is “half each”, but if one spouse brings a big share of the wealth or inherits some during the marriage (or civil partnership), they should be able to carve that out and keep it. In Scotland an unwedded partner can apply to the court for a financial payment to cover their losses in the relationship, for example giving up a good job to look after children.
Many people believe marriage comes with historic and sexist baggage that they hate. But civil partnerships are now open to all, and give full and equal legal rights identical to those of marriage but without those perceived drawbacks. Both bring equality and fairness and can be done for just a couple of hundred pounds.
QUESTIONS? Send any questions to Paul.Lewis@radiotimes.com. Paul cannot answer you personally, but will reflect them in his column