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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?

As ‘cohabitants’ (people living together), you do not fit easily into the legal system. In a few areas of law you are treated as if you are married, but in most others you are treated differently.

It is important to understand that living together does not give you legal rights over each other, or legal duties or responsibilities to each other.

The idea of a ‘common-law wife’ or a ‘common-law marriage’ is a myth. Neither of you can claim maintenance, for instance, however long you have lived together. And if one of you dies, the other has no automatic right to inherit their property.

This leaflet deals with your legal position in three sections:

What if we register our partnership?
The Civil Partnership Act, which came into force in December 2005, allows same-sex couples to register their partnership in a similar way to a civil marriage. In law, couples who register their partnership are treated in almost every way as if they are married. However, civil partnership is only for same-sex couples – male-female couples cannot register their partnership.

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

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are regularly updated but the law may have changed since this was printed, so information in it may be incorrect or out of date.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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