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Who is entitled to what on separation?

View profile for Melanie Loxley
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who is entitled to what on separation?

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Lynn and Paul have been in a relationship for 30 years. They lived together over that time in a property owned in Paul’s sole name, which he bought a year before they met. They have two children together, who are now aged 27 and 25 and have both left home. 

Lynn gave up a job as a trainee accountant to raise the children and returned to work part time when the youngest started school. When both children were at senior school, she increased her hours and now works full time. She works as an accounts clerk rather than an accountant as she never got around to finishing her accountancy exams.

Paul’s career has gone from strength to strength over the length of the relationship and his salary is now four times the amount that Lynn earns. Over the last 30 years he has paid significant amounts into a pension scheme, which will come in handy as he is hoping to retire in the next 10 years. 

Lynn and Paul have had some problems in their relationship. A few months ago, Lynn discovered that Paul had been having an affair. Whilst they agreed to try and put this behind them, Paul has realised that he is in love with the new lady and he wants to bring an end to his relationship with Lynn. 

Question: If they separate, is Lynn entitled to: -

Option A

A share of the equity in the family home; and

Possibly maintenance if she cannot meet her needs without support from Paul; and

A share of Paul’s pension; and

Possibly a top up of her basic state pension by virtue of Paul’s national insurance contributions


Option B

No claim against the family home; and

No claim for maintenance;

No claim against Paul’s pension;

No top up of her basic state pension


Both Options A and B could be correct, depending on whether Lynn and Paul are married.

If Lynn and Paul were a married couple, then Lynn would have the claims detailed at Option A.

If they did not marry, Lynn could be entitled to nothing, as detailed in Option B. 

The myth of common-law marriage continues to pervade British society. Make sure that you and your friends, family and colleagues are aware that, even in a long-lasting relationship, if the couple never married then there are no automatic rights upon the relationship breakdown. 

I am a divorce and separation lawyer based in our Colchester office. Please contact me for a free 15-minute telephone consultation if you would like to see how this could apply to you.  I am available on 01206 217384 or