Vital Living Together Advice

Suzy Miller of Alternative Divorce Guide

“Well it’s the same as being married” was a phrase I heard over and over again but which eventually proved to be a lie.  

For ten years, my husband and I lived with our three children as an unmarried couple and when the relationship abruptly ended I quickly learned all that was wrong with that simple phrase.

You can believe, think and tell yourself that while you are together, but don’t be foolish enough to think it’s the same when you are splitting up.

Will you get some of his pension? – Nope. You are not eligible for any of it.

My career was put aside to look after the kids so now he has a pension. I have none. The pension that was going to support both of us became just his. But, had we been married, I would have had claim to half of it, as it stands today, I get nothing. And it’s hard to create a secure pension from scratch at 40 with no job and three small children to look after.

Surely half the house goes to me. Not if your name is not on the deeds.  

You may be able to go on living in the “matrimonial” home if you have dependent children but probably only until they reach the age of 16 years at which point you yourself becomes homeless, with no property, unless you’ve been able to save up for one whilst bringing up the kids.

Vital Living Together Advice

Surely half the house goes to me.

In my case, I couldn’t continue living in the home with the children as it had to be sold to cover the debts I didn’t know he had amassed.

My name was not on the deeds despite the fact that I had financially contributed to the running of the household whilst he paid the mortgage.

There was one positive thing about not being legally married  I wasn’t liable for his debts – one benefit at least.

Don’t count on spousal maintenance either because you are not a spouse.

Thank god for Working Family Tax Credit to top up your income and help cover childcare costs when you get a part-time job It is true that a percentage of his gross salary (minus his pension payments) will be provided but only as a contribution for the children’s needs – child support.   You yourself get nothing.  No spousal maintenance. That new pair of shoes that you need,  you need to go out and earn it.

‘Common Law Marriage’ is a myth.

51% of the British population still think that common law marriage exists in law, according to a British Social Attitudes survey!  Those surveyed believe that cohabiting couples are protected by ‘common law marriage’.  But that is not the case I’m afraid.

“There is no such thing as a Common Law wife and cohabiting couples can be extremely vulnerable on separation because many people cohabit without realising the legal implications.” Kim Beatson, Anthony Gold Solicitors

So what can you do if you’re not married and financially dependent on your partner, with children to care for?

Well, there are now plenty of married of couples who thought it was too unromantic to get a prenup, are later on seeing the light and getting themselves a postnup.

If you’re living together and not planning on getting married anytime soon, you can create a Cohabitation Agreement at any point. It may not have the full strength under the pressure of litigation as a marriage license, but should the need arise and it’s put to the test, it will be taken seriously by any reasonable judge.

But the whole point is that you shouldn’t have to end up fighting about who gets what if the relationship ends, or how much is needed to bring up your family, because you have already sat down and worked it all out in advance.


Suzy Miller

Alternative Divorce Guide


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