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The law surrounding unmarried couples can be very puzzling because, in the eyes of the law, unmarried couples are just two unrelated individuals – even when you have children.

In a series of blogs, we are going to look at the most important topics of a relationship breakdown. In this blog, we are looking at your rights when you’re unmarried with children and want to separate.

What happens when unmarried couples separate?

Biological parents

When biological parents separate and are not married, only the mother has full parental responsibilities unless:

  • The parents jointly registered the birth of the child on or after 4 May 2006
  • The parents made and registered a Parental Responsibilities and Parental Rights Agreement
  • A court has made an order giving parental responsibilities to the father

*If you are the father but have no parental responsibilities you still must support the children financially.

When an unmarried couple separates, they can ideally agree contact arrangements between themselves and how to financially support their children. If you both agree to financially support your children, for example, you can agree to help with rent or mortgage payments, household bills, or pay for the children’s clothing and schooling.

If an agreement cannot be reached, then the law can step in, and an application can be made to the courts for a Child Arrangement Order to work out all contact arrangements for the child.

The Child Arrangement Order can decide who and where the child will live, who the child can have contact with and when.

One biological parent

If you’re in a same sex relationship and one of you is the biological parent, only the biological partner has automatic parental responsibilities unless:

  • The other partner has adopted the child
  • A court has made an order giving parental responsibilities and rights to the other partner
  • The child was conceived by donor insemination or fertility treatment on or after 6 April 2009.

There are many legal aspects when an unmarried couple with children separates, and every case truly is unique. Our family law team can assist you with child maintenance, financial provisions for children, court orders and more.

Please use our online contact form to get in touch.

Read our other blog in this series ‘Ending a relationship when you are unmarried: your family home’.