It is commonly thought that unmarried couples living together have legal rights.
These relationships are referred to as common law marriages.
Those who are married or in civil partnerships have rights to claim against each other, on the ending of their legal relationship, for maintenance, orders concerning capital (property such as houses, savings and other assets) and pensions.
However, this is not the case where the couple are unmarried or not in a civil partnership. In general no rights arise so, on the ending of the relationship neither party can claim against the other’s property or for maintenance.
If the couple have children there can be claims in respect of the cost of raising the children which rights generally end when the children reach their majority.
If one of the couple dies during the living together there may be claims against the deceased’s estate under the Inheritance Act.
This is of some concern as there has been an increase in the number of couples choosing to live together without getting married. This is happening more in older age groups. In 2011 the 40 and overs made up 41% of the cohabiting population up from 31% in 2001.