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The Separation journey: Key Considerations for Non-Married Couples

By Lara Davies on June 25, 2024

Guide to separation for unmarried couples

The Separation journey: Key Considerations for Non-Married Couples


When a non-married couple decides to part ways, the process can be emotionally challenging and legally complex. Unlike married couples, non-married partners do not have the same legal protections and rights, which can make the separation process even more daunting. Here are some crucial aspects to consider when non-married couples decide to separate.


  1. Understand Your Legal Rights


One of the first steps is to understand the legal standing of your relationship. Non-married couples do not have the same rights as married couples, and this varies significantly by jurisdiction. In the UK, for instance, there is no such thing as a “common-law marriage,” and cohabiting couples have limited legal protection. It’s crucial to seek legal advice to understand your rights regarding property, finances, and children.


  1. Property and Asset Division


Unlike married couples, non-married partners do not have an automatic right to a share of each other’s property. If the property is jointly owned, the division should be straightforward, but if it is owned by one partner, the other may not have any claim. It’s important to review any cohabitation agreements or deeds of trust that may outline how property should be divided. Seeking legal advice is highly recommended to navigate this process.


  1. Financial Agreements


Consider any financial arrangements made during the relationship. This includes joint bank accounts, loans, credit cards, and shared investments. Separating these finances can be complex, and it may be necessary to close joint accounts and settle any joint debts. Documentation of contributions to shared finances can be useful in resolving disputes.


  1. Child Custody and Support


If there are children involved, determining custody and support is paramount. Both parents have a responsibility to support their children financially. Custody arrangements should focus on the best interests of the child, including where they will live and how decisions about their upbringing will be made. Mediation can be a valuable tool in reaching an amicable agreement, and legal advice is essential to ensure that any agreement is fair and legally binding.


  1. Emotional Well-being


Separation can be emotionally taxing. It’s important to take care of your mental health and seek support from friends, family, or a professional counsellor. Maintaining a support network can help you navigate the emotional complexities of separation and make the process less isolating.


  1. Legal Agreements and Mediation


To avoid future disputes, consider formalising any agreements through legal means. This can include written agreements on property division, child custody, and financial support. Mediation can also help resolve disputes amicably, providing a neutral space to discuss and agree on the terms of your separation.


  1. Future Planning


After separation, it’s essential to plan for your future. This might include finding a new place to live, adjusting to a new financial situation, and making decisions about your career and personal goals. Creating a plan can provide a sense of direction and help you move forward with confidence. It is also important to consider making a will or updating your previous will at this time.


  1. Review and Update Documents


Finally, review and update any important documents such as your will, insurance policies, and beneficiaries on pensions or investments. Ensure that all your personal records reflect your new circumstances to avoid complications in the future.




Separation is never easy, but by understanding your rights, seeking appropriate legal advice, and focusing on both practical and emotional well-being, non-married couples can navigate the process more smoothly. Planning and open communication are key to ensuring that both parties can move forward with their lives in a fair and amicable manner.

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    • Lara Davies

      Lara is our Head of Legal Practice and a director. She advises on complex financial remedy proceedings, private child disputes, and Inheritance Act cases. She also has a keen interest in protecting vulnerable clients, particularly those who have experienced forms of domestic violence in their relationships. Lara has often represented fathers in private child proceedings and has a unique understanding of the challenges faced by them. Lara is keen horsewoman, and has spent her life competing in national and regional level dressage competitions with success. She is also a keen runner, and has completed Marathons, Half-Marathons and mountain races – she is now building up to her first ultra-marathon. Lara loves being outside in the mountains; her favourite place is the Scottish Highlands where she can be found a few times a year with her other half and their Pug in their campervan. She is slowly making her way through climbing each of the Scottish Munros and high peaks of England and Wales. Lara is a Welsh speaker.

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