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Rights of unmarried women when separating from a partner

(218 Posts)
Ilovemymum1 Wed 25-Apr-18 03:10:07

I find it both alarming and disturbing that women in England have very few rights when they separate from a partner. I’m not talking about divorce or a civil partnership - just couples who live together either of the opposite sex or the same sex. In my case, I spent 20 years with my partner under the same roof but the ‘roof’ was in his name as were the cars. I kept the home and as he’d already retired, we spent all our time together. We didn’t have children as I had an underlying health issue. He thankfully had children from a previous relationship (marriage). He broke up with me whilst I was away via an email. There’s no-one else in the relationship. I thought we’d always be together but there were many days when I thought of leaving him as his bullying was terribly upsetting. Why didn’t I? I was weak and scared as I didn’t have money set aside as the money he gave me was for housekeeping and if I needed anything extra, I had to ask. Yes I know - what a darn fool I’ve been. Anyway, to cut a long story short I spoke to a lovely lawyer who said that the law in England desperately needed changing and apologised for being unable to do anything for me. I’m in my 50’s with a chronic health condition and a head filled with cotton. He doesn’t have to provide me with anything even though he always promised me that he would look after me no matter what. He wa obsessed with money and sadly no heartstrings that I can pull on.

Here’s a link to the Rights of Women that the lawyer gave me. It’s a guide for people who are living together. For some silly reason, I always thought I was somehow ‘protected’....that if he left me then the law would be on my side. Sadly it’s not. I thought of approaching the Daily Mail to see if they would like to start a campaign to have the law changed so that people in the future aren’t caught out. If nothing else, it would get the word out there that people, like myself, have no rights and it might just help people make better decisions.

Thanks for listening. Have a good Wednesday.

Here’s the link:-

Battleax Wed 25-Apr-18 03:55:11


Have you got housing and an income now?

GameChanger01 Wed 25-Apr-18 04:25:01

Start a petition

YimminiYoudar Wed 25-Apr-18 04:47:28

Really sorry for your difficult situation.

But honestly I think the better path is to make sure that everyone is aware that legal protection comes through marriage and you don't get the benefits of marriage without getting married. You aren't alone there are thousands of people every year whose relationships fall apart and with no marriage whichever former partner is more financially vulnerable (usually a woman) ends up with severe difficulties. However, everyone needs to know that it is just a really bad idea to become financially dependent on another person who you are not married to/in a civil partnership with.

Your own situation op is slightly different as presumably it is primarily your long term health condition that limits your capacity to support yourself which is a different situation than the more typical scenario of one person having willingly taken a massive reduction in lifetime earnings potential by being a SAHP. Your ability to support yourself is more down to the bad luck of ill health rather than having been in this relationship. Your ex partner may have made a verbal promise to look after you forever but verbal promises are not worth the paper they are written on and he never made a legal commitment. It would be wrong for the law to treat people as if they had made a legal commitment when they never did so.

Thank you for sharing the Rights of Women leaflet (clicky link) - I agree this should be much more widely known.

Ilovemymum1 Wed 25-Apr-18 04:54:12

Hi. I’ve been fortunate enough to stay with a GF x

Ilovemymum1 Wed 25-Apr-18 05:07:11

I will start a petition. I wonder how many have tried before me? My girlfriends use to say “don’t worry - you have rights as you’re in a de facto relationship” which I understood to mean “the legally recognized, committed relationship of a couple living together (opposite-sex or same-sex)”. How wrong was I. I forgot Rule number 1:- never presume.

Ilovemymum1 Wed 25-Apr-18 05:17:16

Thank you YimminiYoudar. As the lawyer said, that’s where the law needs to be amended to reflect the changing world in which we live so as to protect people who have decided for many reasons, not to enter into marriage. Thk you for yr thoughts.

Shoxfordian Wed 25-Apr-18 05:30:10

If the law was changed to provide unmarried couples with rights akin to marriage then at what stage would you acquire the rights? Living together? Having children? Together x amount of years? In France there's a contract you can sign without being married to cover a lot of the rights; perhaps something similar would be useful.

I think the answer is to circulate information like the leaflet the op shared more widely and to make sure people are more aware of their rights or lack thereof if they're unmarried.

ChinnyReckon1 Wed 25-Apr-18 05:40:46

In a relationship without children together where you didn't contribute financially I'm not sure why you think he should be obliged to provide you with anything after a split? Because he's a man?

I understand this is awful for you but I'm not really understanding your point of view in regards to thinking he should continue to provide for you.

Oliversmumsarmy Wed 25-Apr-18 05:51:39

The issue isn't about getting married. It is about making sure you are on the deeds/mortgage of any houses owned. Named on pensions, life insurance policies wills, next of kin and having your own income.
Going through friends divorce ATM I can see issues that being single and living with a partner has its advantages namely no solicitors fees (Currently standing at £10,000+ and rising for her side) and most importantly ATM she is not receiving any income/spousal maintenance and hasnt for nearly a year yet he is working his way through loans, credit cards gambling and drawing out cash that apparently has to be accounted for when the finances are done.
In another thread an abusive husband was using matrimonial assets to fund his solicitor defending him against the charges of abuse.

At least if you are single your debts are yours and if he wants to go on a spending binge then the resulting financial hangover is his own.

A lot is made of spousal maintenance but if the stbex puts down they are on a really low salary. (Even though it is complete BS) For the duration of the divorce proceedings you are unlikely to get a thing.

Then you have to prove what they are earning. Fine if they are on a fixed salary but in a business which involves solely cash there is no way.

I have lived with my dp for 30+ years and having accompanied my friend to court, looked through her paperwork and corrected her solicitor it makes me glad I never married

Johnnycomelately1 Wed 25-Apr-18 05:52:24

And how exactly would you like the law to be changed?

Ullupullu Wed 25-Apr-18 05:58:54

Sadly your campaign really should be to ensure people (mainly low earning women, SAHM etc who are greatly affected, like your situation) understand there is no such thing as a common law marriage or "de facto relationship" as your ignorant friends called it. Marriage is an old fashioned institution but it's the best and only legal protection. So your campaign should be to publicise this existing protection IMO.

flowery Wed 25-Apr-18 06:08:50

There’s no need to campaign for the law to be changed. The law is fine as it is. If two people are in a long term committed relationship and want each other to have various rights in terms of property split etc in the event of a relationship breakdown, they have the option of getting married. If they decide they’d rather keep their assets separate and just walk away in the event of a breakdown, they can choose to remain unmarried.

The issue isn’t the law needing to change, it’s that for some reason there are still people who have got it in their head that there is such a thing as common law spouses.

Your campaign should be about information, not a law change.

KanielOutis Wed 25-Apr-18 06:13:25

There are threads on this subject time and time again and it is loud and clear that the only thing that offers the rights and obligations of marriage, is marriage.

meditrina Wed 25-Apr-18 06:19:53

I agree the law is fine, because people should be free to remain unmarried and should not be coerced into matrimony of marrialike arrangement because they have cohabited with someone.

I also agree that more needs end to make sure that people know about the legal differences, somthey can understand the risks/benefits an informed choice.

MN itself has a good page about this:

I post about the differences frequently (as do some other posters) and we are only occasionally howled at. I'll carry on doing so until threads by those who feel left high and dry as the result of their (possibly unwitting) choices are rarities.

whiteroseredrose Wed 25-Apr-18 06:23:46

Campaign for greater awareness but not a change in the law please. Not everyone wants the commitment of marriage and it will take away choice. If you want the rights of a spouse, get married. If you want things more casual then don't.

ALittleBitConfused1 Wed 25-Apr-18 06:25:27

I'm not sure how the law could be changed. I understand that if you enter into a relationship with someone and then compramise your earning /career potential to have children and become a Sahm then this need a to be taken into account should the relationship break down years later, but I'm not sure how that could be done. It's a very grey area how it would be assessed.
For example if you worked in a shop on a minimum salary pre children, then decided to become a Sahm for 10 years how do you assess what your loss of earning potential would be been in that time.
Obviously if you were on a path to become a high powered exec before having children then took ten years out to raise children it's a little easier to assess.
I think the changes are needed in the area of childcare etc. Making it easier for women to go back to work and resume their careers so that they don't loose out in the work place. They don't have to choose between being a parent or having a career. That way they can continue their path and won't always need as much support should the relationship fail. Also child maintenance and the regs surrounding this need to be changed. It's ridiculous how easy it is for the absent parent to wiggle out of paying their fair share.
On the other hand, m a firm believer in people supporting themselves. Either while in or out of a relationship, that's where I think we need to concentrate on making things different/better/easier for women.
I'm sorry for what you went through, he sounds awful but I'm not sure what you expected him to do.
You don't work due to ill health and that isn't a direct result of being in a relationship with him. The house was his and it doesn't sound like you contributed financially so I'm not sure why you think he should support you now.

NoSuchThingAsAlpha Wed 25-Apr-18 06:26:15

A marriage is a financial contract to protect both partners in the event of a relationship breakdown. I'm very sorry this has happened to you OP, but this is just reinventing the wheel. Or worse, because it would mean effectively forcing people into a form of marriage just because they were in a relationship and living together. I think the laws in England need some reform to simplify divorce, though.

Oliversmumsarmy Wed 25-Apr-18 06:44:59

Whilst a marriage protects both parties in the event of a relationship breakdown the split of assets is only 50/50.

Friend who was the subject of domestic violence and emotional and financial abuse will only get 50% of anything they both own less their respective debts Which is less than if she had stayed single and bought in joint names. In her case marriage and divorce is going to cost her over £100,000. Their will be no spousal or child maintenance as he has said he has given up working.

Marriage in some cases is more of a hindrance

Ilovemymum1 Wed 25-Apr-18 06:47:32

Thanks Shoxfordian. Yes in France it’s called a PACS. smile

ChinnyReckon1 Wed 25-Apr-18 06:52:38

I don't think many people would sign a petition saying that you own a house, invite someone to live with you as a partner, pay for everything with them making no financial contribution ever..and you then have to provide for them if you decide you don't want to be in that relationship anymore.

Shoxfordian Wed 25-Apr-18 06:57:25

That's the one
Apparently marriage rates are down in France because many people just get a PACS instead. Also you can get one with anyone not just romantic partners.

sofato5miles Wed 25-Apr-18 06:57:38

There are countres that have de facto relationship rights (Australia, NZ) and it works just fine.

Everytime it comes up for discussion on MN it is as if the wheel is being reinvented.

OP, I am sorry for you and wish you well.

Ilovemymum1 Wed 25-Apr-18 07:00:10

Hi. Yes. My chronic health issue certainly affected my ability to work full time but sadly part time work was also put to one side when I cared & comforted him through cancer, chemo then another bout of cancer & more chemo plus tragedy on another level.

Yes awareness is necessary.

Olicity17 Wed 25-Apr-18 07:01:09

There are several ways to financially protect yourself. The law doesnt need changing. But people need to be made aware of the law that is in place. Not a change in law.

I am not sure why people seem so convinced they have a legal right, when they dont. But it appears they do this, alot.

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