Legal Guides

We use plain and simple English to give you an overview of the most common areas of law.

Three things you should know about your legal rights as a cohabiting/non-married parent

1.  You are not entitled to claim ongoing financial support from your former cohabitee for yourself.

Unlike married couples, you are not entitled to claim any financial support or maintenance for yourself from your former cohabitee if you both decide to separate.

However, married or not, most people understand that when you separate from the other parent and the child(ren) remain living with you, the other parent is legally obliged to pay maintenance to you towards the upkeep of those children.

If you and your former cohabitee are unable to reach an agreement between you privately as to what financial support you will receive from them to support the children, the Child Maintenance Service (CMS) will be able to assess the amount that will need to be paid to you.

2.  However, if your ex-partner is a high earner or if your children have particular health needs, you may be able to apply for the following:
  • ‘top-up’ maintenance order over and above a maximum assessment that has been undertaken by the CMS and which could extend beyond your children’s 18th birthdays
  • ‘periodical payments’ maintenance order for you for the benefit of the children for such a period as can be agreed
  • ‘lump sum payment’ order used to assist with purchasing a house, for example, for you and the children to live in or to purchase other capital (eg a car or the adaption to the home required for a child with a disability) that is needed for the benefit of the children and their future welfare
  • ‘school fees order’ if your children are being privately educated to ensure that the fees continue to be paid by your former cohabitee once you have separated.

You may also be able to apply to the court for a ‘settlement of property’ ie a request that your former partner makes available housing provision for you whilst you are looking after the children. This could be by purchasing or transferring a house for you and your children to live in after you have separated.  Ownership will be transferred back to your ex-partner when the children reach the age of 18, 21 (or at the end of their full-time education).

3.  Parental responsibility is not granted automatically

Parental responsibility includes all those rights and duties that a parent acquires in order to be able to make important decisions in respect to a child’s life.  This includes education, health and medical treatment, and religious upbringing.

If you are unmarried and your name is not on the birth certificate of the child, you are not automatically assigned parental responsibility.

If you do not have parental responsibility for your children:

  • your consent/approval does not need to be obtained by your former cohabitee and they can simply go ahead and make all those important decisions that affect their lives without any further reference to you.
  • your former partner may also change their names without your knowledge and consent.

However, acquiring parental responsibility can be rectified quite simply by entering into an agreement with your ex-partner or, if necessary, by way of a formal application to the court.

You can also make sure that your children are provided for by entering into a cohabitation agreement.

Article written by Kuits, Manchester

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances. It is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered above, please speak to  directly

Published on 18th December 2019
(Last updated 7th May 2021)