The latest ONS recorded figures (for 2021) show that for the first time, births registered outside of a marriage or civil partnership have outnumbered births registered within a marriage or civil partnership. 51.3% of live births were registered to women outside of a marriage or civil partnership.


Currently, the legal framework regarding separating couples does not reflect or accommodate this social shift, potentially leaving families in a vulnerable position. Put simply, the law has not kept up with this profound demographic change.


Unmarried couples (with or without children) do not have the same legal protection as couples who are divorcing (or dissolving their civil partnership).  Your potential claims (if any) are based on complex property and trust law. If you have children, there may be options, depending on your circumstances, of obtaining financial support for them, to include the provision of a home for their minority.


The government has recently shelved proposals for reform in this area, so for now, what can you do to protect yourself?


Practical steps

Get informed and find out what your rights are.  If you are thinking of buying a house together, make sure you understand the terms of how the house is going to be held, and get a formal document (called a declaration of trust) to set this out.  If you are the one bringing the property to the relationship, you may want to protect it against future claims, so you are both clear from the outset and avoid arguments down the line.

You can also enter into a well-informed living together (cohabitation) agreement.  This can be relatively simple and straightforward.  It can deal with payment of living expenses, improvements to the property, perhaps a buyout clause and how you will manage day to day decisions such as general expenses from food to redecorating.  It can also deal with what should happen if you separate. It is also sensible to record any investments made by the ‘bank of Mum and Dad’ and what should happen to it in the event of the breakdown of the relationship.

Think about how you will meet the costs for the children.

Whilst no one likes to think about the end of a relationship at the outset, it really does pay to think about the worst-case scenario and plan.  Make sure you both have valid Wills in place and you need life insurance to offer protection if the unexpected happens.

The Future

In 2021, the majority of civil partnerships continued to be between opposite-sex couples, following their introduction in late 2019 for them. They are available to same-sex couples but they have equal marriage rights now too, so fewer same-sex couples choose the civil partnership route.

Civil partnership provides an alternative to couples who do not want to get married (with its historical and religious connections) but want the same legal protection.

However, there is no prospect of imminent statutory reform for un-married couples, particularly those with children. Be aware, there is no such concept of a ‘common-law spouse’.

So, get the piece of paper! If you  don’t want to get married, get a written agreement in place so you both know where you stand.

If you would like to understand your rights in relation to your finances and property before or after moving in with a partner, please contact us on 020 7409 1222.