There is no such thing as a “common law” husband or wife. It's made up, has no legal status and is used by journalists not lawyers.
If you live with but are unmarried or a civil partner, you have limited legal claims. But there is little point saying what you can’t do, let’s outline what may be possible.
In all cases
You may be able to make a claim in relation to your home or property that you understand to be joint property with your ex-partner even if it is in the other person's name, under the Trust of Land legislation. This legislation enables you to identify and legalise any beneficial interest you may have in the property. Once the legal ownership is identified, you can then consider how you realise your interest; is it by a sale of the property, or can your ex-partner buy you out, or vice versa?
If you have children together
You can make financial claims which resemble those of a married person, on behalf of your children, but not yourself.
Essentially, for the time they are dependent which can be up until the end of university education, maintenance claims and claims for housing and other necessities can be made.
Unless a high earner is involved, maintenance for children is dealt with by the Child Maintenance Service. Although, even with higher earners, it is common practice to follow the CMS formula to work out the appropriate level of weekly or monthly financial support the non-resident parent should pay.
Over and above this, the court will also consider the need for additional financial support for the financially weaker parent and can make an order for the other parent to cover the cost of necessities such as a car, a house, furniture, school fees (if appropriate for your circumstances) and even a “living allowance”.
These claims are time limited to the child and cannot provide for the parent in the weaker position in their own right: you will not get a house in your name for example nor a pension share, unless with the agreement of the paying parent, but it is not a legal right.
If you don't have children
The claims are limited to property claims or disputes concerning property which you have contributed to. You have no independent claim against your former partner based on living together.
Costs and timing
This depends on whether an agreement is possible, which can take time, and depends on the situation. Agreements can be reached quickly or can take time to resolve: it varies according to what is in dispute.
A negotiated settlement will require the exchange of evidence and involve correspondence with the other party. The costs depend on a range of factors, but you can expect to spend a minimum of £5,000 to £7,500 plus VAT.
If an agreement cannot be reached and your case has to go to court, we will advise you of the likely costs once we know more about your situation and the possible claims involved. Costs can vary significantly making a generalised estimate difficult.
Please see our section on fees and funding your case for more information.
Funding your case
Legal fees can be high and come at a time of uncertainty, there is no hiding this. We realise this and want to ensure that instructing FLC is something which involves openness on the likely costs and how these can be met.
We have set out our hourly rates and what can be expected in terms of costs here. We have also set out the various options available for funding your case.
We accept: Litigation loans, credit or debit cards, bank transfer.
We have been living as common-law husband and wife, surely I have rights?
There is no such thing as common law husband and wife. Unless you are married or in a civil partnership, you do not have any financial claims over each other as a result of your relationship.
My long-term partner has kicked me out of our home, what can I do?
If the property is in your joint names, your partner has no right to kick you out. If they will not let you re-enter the property, contact the police for assistance. However, if tensions are such that you no longer feel safe around your partner consider whether it may be sensible to obtain the protection of a non-molestation order before returning to the property.
If the property is in your partner’s name and you have no legal entitlement over it, then they can withdraw their consent for you to live in the property. If you have financially contributed to the property and there was an agreement between you and your partner that you had an interest in the property, you may be able to establish a beneficial interest and therefore establish some rights over it.
My ex will not contribute to the cost of our children, what can I do?
Make an application for child support through the CMS. They will deal with collecting the money from your partner and getting this to you. The details can be found here.
I used some inheritance to help my ex-partner clear their mortgage and now he’s refusing to repay it and I am not on the title deeds to the property, what can I do?
Speak to a lawyer about whether you have a case to establish a beneficial interest in the property or whether the matter would be better dealt with through the civil courts for the return of your funds. However, if the money you inherited was a gift to your ex-partner then you will not have a claim. You cannot retrospectively withdraw gifts following a break up.
My ex and I jointly own a property, but they are refusing to sell it, what are my options?
If your ex will not agree to sell the property then you will need to get a court order. Usually after a relationship has ended there is an expectation for jointly owned property to either be sold or for one party to buy out the other. There can be exceptions to this, for example, when a property is required to house children.