eve stanway

divorce and break up coach

Empowering you to navigate the stormy seas of heartbreak, charting a course to a brighter future.

Relationship Breakdown (2)

Navigating Separation: Unmarried Partners - Charlotte and James’s Story

Separation is challenging for any couple, but the difficulties multiply for unmarried partners. Especially when a couple wrongly believe that by living together, they married under common law. Common Law Marriage is a myth that can create the false belief that choosing to live together creates a legitimate version of marriage that will be recognised under the law. It doesn’t!

Charlotte and James’s story highlights the unique hurdles unmarried couples face, especially those with shared property and children. Their journey from misunderstanding to resolution provides insights into the importance of legal clarity and effective communication during all relationship breakdowns. Knowing your rights, understanding the situation, and gaining clarity about the real circumstances are essential steps in creating a plan that benefits everyone.


Charlotte and James had been together for ten years and shared two young children. They owned a home together and lived as a family, under the common misconception that their long-term cohabitation granted them similar rights to those of married couples. When they decided to part ways, they were unprepared for the legal and emotional complexities that lay ahead. They were given a lot of advice from their friends and family, however, none of this advice was the same as discovering the truth of their legal position. Arguments often happen when people are not in possession of the facts.

The Issue

Initially, the position was that neither Charlotte nor James knew that “common law marriage” was a myth. That meant they were basing decisions and opinions on assumptions which were at their core incorrect. Without the protection of marriage or a formal cohabitation agreement, the reality was that Charlotte and James faced significant challenges in dividing their assets and determining custody arrangements for their children. They needed help to find out the facts, in their case realise that what they thought were facts, were actually fiction.

Their primary concern was the family home, which had no clear documentation outlining each partner’s financial contribution or ownership rights. Additionally, they needed to establish a fair and workable plan for the care and support of their children. Without a framework it was proving difficult to think what to do, which led to more arguments.

Why It Was a Problem

The lack of legal clarity heightened the stress and conflict between Charlotte and James. Misunderstandings about their legal rights and the division of their assets fuelled disagreements, creating a tense and contentious atmosphere. This situation strained their relationship further and impacted their children, who felt caught in the middle of their parents’ disputes. As the disagreements continued both Charlotte and James began to feel pressure and that they had no where to turn to create a solution.

The Solution

When Charlotte and James approached me for assistance, my primary goal was to help them understand their legal position and guide them towards a resolution that prioritised their children’s well-being. Here’s how we navigated this journey together:

  • Education on Legal Rights: I talked to Charlotte and James about the reality of their situation guiding them to understand their legal standing as unmarried partners was not what they thought. This included the significance of cohabitation agreements and the need for documented financial contributions and property ownership. By giving them clarity, they were able to take responsibility and think about the advantages of resolving a problem they both shared.
  • Developing a Communication Strategy: Through coaching sessions, we focused on improving their communication. By establishing a clear and respectful dialogue, Charlotte and James were able to reduce conflict and focus on finding solutions that worked for both of them and for their children.
  • Legal Guidance: Recognising the need for specialised legal advice, I referred Charlotte and James to a family lawyer experienced in cohabitation and property disputes. The lawyer assisted them in drafting a fair agreement that outlined the division of their assets and created a comprehensive parenting plan.
  • Focusing on the Children: We kept the children’s well-being at the forefront throughout the process. Charlotte and James worked on creating a stable and supportive environment for their children, ensuring that their needs were met despite the changes in family dynamics.


With the combination of legal and emotional support, Charlotte and James successfully navigated their separation. They reached a fair agreement on the division of their property and established a cooperative co-parenting arrangement that prioritised their children’s needs. The experience, though challenging, strengthened their ability to communicate effectively and work together for the sake of their family.


Charlotte and James’s story powerfully reminds us of the importance of legal clarity and effective communication in navigating the separation of unmarried partners. Their journey from confusion to resolution underscores the need for awareness and preparation. If you are in a similar situation, seeking professional advice and focusing on respectful dialogue can significantly improve the outcome for you and your children. Often, people are scared of talking to a lawyer as horror stories or TV shows have put them off. The reality is that family lawyers will often offer a free 30-minute consultation, which is enough time to begin to get some answers or ideas about the true situation you find yourself in.

A breakup divorce coach can guide you through the whole process by guiding you through the necessary steps, including seeking legal advice, financial advice, and other insights that will support a successful resolution and ensure that communications are calm and constructive. My own six-month coaching support programme means that you will have all the help you need to manage your emotions, support your children, and create a plan to tackle administration and child arrangements whilst finding the time to look after your own needs and start to rebuild your future

Three Tips for Navigating Separation as Unmarried Partners

  1. Seek Legal Advice Early: Understanding your legal rights and responsibilities as an unmarried couple is crucial. Consult with a family lawyer to gain clarity on property division, financial contributions, and custody arrangements. This early intervention can prevent misunderstandings and provide a clear path forward.
  2. Develop a Clear Communication Plan: Effective communication is key to reducing conflict and ensuring that both parties’ needs are heard. Establish ground rules for discussions, focus on respectful dialogue, and consider using a mediator if conversations become challenging. Clear and respectful communication will help in reaching amicable agreements.
  3. Prioritise the Children’s Well-being: Keep the children’s best interests at the forefront of all decisions. Maintain routines, provide emotional support, and ensure both parents remain actively involved in their lives. A stable and supportive environment is essential for helping children adjust to the changes in family dynamics.

For more information on navigating separation and co-parenting as unmarried partners, feel free to contact me through my website or join our Worry to Wisdom Facebook group.

Together, we can put in place the support and guidance you and your family need during this challenging time.

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