Property claims between couples living together

Contrary to popular belief, ‘common law marriage’ or ‘common law relationship’ does not exist in family law in England and Wales. Many couples today choose not to get married. Cohabiting couples are one of the fastest growing families in the UK according to recent statistics. The laws that apply to married couples do not apply to unmarried couples or couples who live together. Cohabiting couples must rely on the laws relating to property, trusts and contract. It is a complex area of law in which I can advise you on. You can contact me here.

If you cannot reach an agreement with your ex-partner about how and when your property should be divided then the Court has power under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (‘TOLATA’) to decide when a property should be sold, what ownership rights any person has and how, therefore, the net proceeds of any sale should be divided. Before an application can be issued to the Court, it is mandatory to try alternative dispute resolution process, such as mediation. You can find out more about how mediation works here.

Financial support for children

An unmarried parent with care of a child may seek financial provision for a child from the other parent. The law that governs this area is known as Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. This is separate to a parent applying to the child maintenance service for child support and making a financial claim pursuant to a marriage.

Financial provision means that the court has the power to make various orders for the benefit of a child, to include: child maintenance for a specific expense (for example, nursery or school fees), a lump sum for the benefit of a child, or transfer of property until a child reaches 18 years of age, following which it reverts to the parent who funded the property.

Child maintenance

A parent has a duty to maintain a child. This duty usually extends until each child reaches 17 years of age or completes full time secondary education.

The calculation is based on the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) calculator, and it depends on the number of children, the non-resident’s parent gross income and how many nights a child spends with each parent. You can find more information at or Where a non-resident parent earns more than £156,000 gross per annum, the family court has the power to deal with and order a top-up of child maintenance.