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Living together but not married? What are your rights?

The Supreme Court ruled that an unmarried woman in Northern Ireland has the right to benefit from her late partner’s pension following his death, a right previously reserved for married partners only (unless a specific nomination is made). This brought Northern Ireland into line with England and Wales.

This landmark ruling is a step forward for the rights of unmarried couples who form a significant proportion of the population in today’s society. Family lawyers across the UK have been battling for a number of years for the rights of unmarried couples to be reviewed as couples move away from the tradition of marriage and opt for the commitment that comes with purchasing a property or having children together.

The problems for these families occur when the relationship breaks down or when one of them dies without a will. A lot of people wrongly believe that after two years of living together you acquire rights as a “common law husband and wife” but this is sadly not the case; there is no such thing as a common law marriage and there are no automatic rights.

If you are the party that has stopped working to raise the children, sacrificing your own career, or you move into a property already owned by your partner, your rights to claim financial support from your ex- (or a share of their property even if it has been your home for many years) are very limited and can be costly to pursue through the courts.

Gregg Latchams’ Family team can offer advice and guidance for couples who chose not to marry. Our specialist lawyers seek to reach agreements between both married and unmarried couples as amicably as possible. If you or someone you know has a relationship problem and would like to speak with one of our  family lawyers please contact  Sarah Comley on 0117 906 9483 or

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.

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