Nearly half of all children born in the UK are born to unmarried people.
We are in 2013; this is a highly developed and enlightened country. What possible difference can it make whether parents choose to have children within marriage or outside marriage? The grim and inescapable reality is the law in England and Wales has not kept pace with people’s choices in respect of their families. The unfairness of the current situation can have a direct impact on the life of children born to unmarried couples. It is a sad fact that unmarried couples do not enjoy the same rights as those who are married.
For example, if you are unmarried and the family home has been bought in the name of your partner only, you do not have an automatic right to remain in the home if you separate; you have to prove you have a right to remain there and having children isn’t a determining factor in itself. In contrast, the married partner simply has to register a notice at the Land Registry to prevent the property being sold, whereas as an unmarried partner you will have to take legal action to protect the home you and your children may have lived in for many years.
Whether or not parents are married does not affect your responsibility to maintain your children. However, in respect of each other, each party to a marriage is legally required to maintain the other, but there is no such requirement on a couple who are living together. This means voluntary arrangements to support each other can be difficult to enforce. The absence of a legal duty to financially support each other can have a real impact on forcing a family but especially the children into a poverty scenario when parents separate.
If your partner dies without leaving a Will, you will not automatically inherit anything unless, as a couple, you owned property jointly. If one parent dies without making a Will, the children will inherit from the parent but as an unmarried couple, you need to make Wills if you want to make sure that the other partner inherits. If you inherit money or property from an unmarried partner, you are not exempt from paying inheritance tax, as married couples are.
There is little disagreement that couples and the children of couples who live together have fewer rights and less protection in law, compared to married couples or civil partners.
Making Wills is important, but another way unmarried couples can protect themselves and their ability to provide for their children, is to enter into a valid cohabitation agreement. If the agreement is properly drafted and meets all the existing legal requirements, then they are likely to have the reassurance that the terms of the agreement will be implemented. This is the best way for a cohabiting couple to have control over their financial affairs and the standard of living they wish to provide for their children.
If you are unmarried with children and live with someone and are unsure of your position or right and would like some advice please contact Alberta Tevie on 020 8956 2655 or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org