Top FAQs on cohabitation and children

Can I claim on my partners’ house?

When a couple are unmarried, the financial claims are more limited.  Usually, the first place to look is at the ownership of the property.  If you appear as a joint owner at the Land Registry on the title deeds then it will be very difficult for your ex-partner to suggest that you do not have a claim.

What happens when your name is not on the title of the property?

The legal arguments become a little more complicated.  The detail of how you arrange your financial affairs between you is likely to become very relevant.  It is often the case that the person who is not on the title deeds will often contribute money towards the mortgage or pay for renovations or other improvements to the property. These scenarios can give rise to a claim over a property. If there are children involved, there may also be separate claims that can be made on behalf of the children against a former partner. The law in this area is particularly complicated and a specialist assessment of your particular circumstances is recommended.

Does a common law spouse exist?

If you remain unmarried during your relationship there are no additional rights that you acquire regardless of the length of time that you have been together.  In short, common law husband or wife this is a myth.  This only changes in the event that you have children between you.  If there are minor children then financial claims can be made on their benefit.

Do children always stay with mum?  

Where there is a dispute over where the children will live following separation, there is no law or legal bias that means that children always stay with their mother.  If the arrangements for the children cannot be agreed then most couples are encouraged to try Mediation.  However, if this breaks down or one parent feels they should have ‘custody’ of the children then the decision can be made by a Judge.  Unless there are some serious safeguarding issues, a Judge is likely to make sure that children spend quality time with both of their parents.  The best interests of the children are going to be the most important factor.

Can the children decide who they live with?

Children under the age of 18 cannot legally make the decision to live with one parent or another.  If the parents cannot agree who should have ‘custody’ of the children then the matter will need to be decided by a Judge.  As part of the court process, the Judge may want to understand the views of the child or children involved and who they say that they would like to live with.  The younger the child, the less likely the court are going to seek their views.  However, the views of older children can be taken into account.  A child’s views, no matter how old they are, are never decisive, just one factor to be taken into account by a Judge when making the ultimate decision.   Children do not always know what is best for them and courts are aware that sometimes parents try and influence a child’s decision about where they want to live.

If you need legal advice, contact Katy Barber in our Southampton office.  T: 023 8071 8056 or email: