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27 Living Together and Your Rights if You Separate

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1 Introduction

2. How is living together different from being married?

3. Setting up home

4. Making a ´living-together agreement´

5. When you are living together

6. If you or your partner dies

7. State benefits for people living together

8. Tax matters

9. Pensions

10. If you split up

It is probably a good idea to get some specialist advice from a solicitor if you are thinking about splitting up. He or she will tell you where you stand and help you work out your options. You may decide, after a first interview, that you can sort things out yourself, but at least you will do this knowing about your legal position.

You should try to find a solicitor who has experience of dealing with the problems of unmarried couples, as it is a difficult area of the law.

Where can I find a good solicitor?
Solicitors are listed in ‘Yellow Pages’, but you will need one who specialises in family law. Libraries and citizens advice bureaux can be helpful, as well as people you know who have been to see a family law solicitor.

Resolution is an association of solicitors who specialise in family law, including those who specialise in cohabitation matters.

The Law Society has a Family Law Panel. Solicitors on this panel have to pass an exam and prove they have family law experience. The Law Society will give you the names of solicitors on this panel in your area.

See ‘Further help’ for how to contact these and other organisations.

Mediation is an alternative way of helping couples reach their own agreements about children and money. It can be particularly helpful if you are not married or in a registered civil partnership, because the law can be complicated and taking legal action is expensive.

A typical mediation service will offer you and your partner a series of meetings with one or two trained mediators. In these meetings you can talk about children and money and see whether you can reach any agreement. If you can, the mediator will make a note of this agreement and you will both be able to check it out with a solicitor.

You can get legal aid for mediation if you meet certain financial criteria, but otherwise you have to pay. It will probably be cheaper, though, than asking a solicitor to negotiate a settlement or going to court. Mediation often results in a better relationship for you and your former partner, and this can be helpful for the future, particularly if you have children.

For more information about mediation, including how to find mediation services in your area, call the Mediation Helpline (see ‘Further help’) or see the Gurkha Free Legal Advice leaflet ‘Family Mediation’.

Do I need a solicitor as well as a mediator?
Mediators cannot advise you on your legal position, so you will probably need a solicitor to make sure the agreement reached is best for you. Also, if you are involved in court proceedings, it is sensible to make into a court order any agreement you reach about financial matters. Mediation services cannot do this for you, but a solicitor can.

Can I get help with legal costs if I can't afford them?
If you qualify, you can have public funding to cover legal proceedings over money or children’s issues (called ‘Approved Family Help and Legal Representation’).

You may also be able to get public funding for mediation. See the Gurkha Free Legal Advice leaflet ‘A Step-by-Step Guide to Legal Aid: Help with paying for civil cases’ for more information.

11. Arrangements if you have children

12. Sorting out the home

13. Sorting out other items you own

14. Dealing with emergencies

15. Terms used in matters to do with living together

16. Further help

17. About this leaflet

The leaflets in this series give you an outline of your legal rights. They are not a complete guide to the law and are not intended to be a guide to how the law will apply to you or to any specific situation. The leaflets are regularly updated but the law may have changed since this was printed, so information in it may be incorrect or out of date.

If you have a problem, you will need to get more information or personal advice to work out the best way to solve it. See 'Further help' for sources of information and advice.

This leaflet is published by the Gurkha Free Legal Advice (LSC). It was written in association with Imogen Clout, a solicitor and mediator specialising in family law.

Leaflet version: January 2009

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