There is an enduring myth that there is such a phrase in the English Legal System as common law marriage.

Such a term is not recognised by the English Courts. It remains the case that the law relating to the breakdown of a marriage, and the various orders one spouse may have against the other upon divorce, is very different to the law relating to cohabiting couples.

Divorcing couples have claims under the Matrimonial Causes Act for maintenance, lump sum orders, pension sharing orders and property adjustment orders.

Cohabiting couples have no claims under the Matrimonial Causes Act and are not entitled to make any claim against the other. There are only two exceptions to this:

(i) Claims could be made under the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act in relation to property. However, a cohabitee can only make an application for an interest in property if the property is already in joint names of themselves and their former partner, or if they can establish a beneficial interest in it.

(ii) If there is a child of the relationship then claims can be made for maintenance for that child through the Child Support Agency. A parent who that child lives with can also make a claim under the Children Act 1989.

Claims under the Children Act are specifically for the child and not for the parent. These claims can include a lump sum to assist with the child’s education or other specific needs. It can also include an application over property to enable the child and the resident parent to have a roof over their heads during the child’s minority.

Williams Thompson Solicitors is the leader Family Law firm in Bournemouth, Poole, Christchurch and Dorset areas.

At Williams Thompson we can advise you with regards to any claim you may have against your partner by assessing your individual circumstances, and point you in the right direction.

For more information contact Claire Cherry or Charlotte Millard at Williams Thompson Solicitors LLPon 01202 484242 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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