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Unmarried couples: Legal rights when separating in Scotland

7 January 2017 by Roger MacKenzie


Although the law regulating claims arising on the end of cohabitation (couples who live together but who are not married) is now more than 10 years old, lawyers and judges are still wrestling with interpreting the intention of the legislation.

Unmarried person in Scotland able to seek financial settlement

The good news for a cohabitant seeking to bring a claim is that the law in Scotland does provide you with a remedy to seek a capital sum from your ex.


The court can also make a separate award specifically for the economic burden of caring for the children after the end of the cohabitation.

Entitlement is often less

The bad news is the amount you would be entitled to is difficult to quantify and your award may still fall short of what you would have obtained had you been married.

The law as originally envisaged was designed to deal with situations where people lived together as if they were a husband and wife but never got married.


It was intended to offer a remedy in situations, such as, but not exclusive to, where a couple had children together but the house was in the name of one party only. Or where one party gave up work to care for children and supported the other as their career progressed.

Prove you are entitled to compensation from partner

Anyone bringing a claim would need to be able to make a case to demonstrate they are entitled to compensation because they have suffered an economic loss in the interests of the relationship.

So, you might be able to show that at the start of the relationship your career prospects or earnings were better than they are now because you made sacrifices for the family.


You could show how your former partner has benefited by payments you have made towards the house he or she owns. All of this, and other factors, would go in the mix in trying to arrive at a figure which reflected your economic disadvantage and/or his or her advantage.

Beware: Time Limits

You also need to be aware that there are strict time limits to make a claim. Parties to a relationship only have a year from the date they separated.


Sometimes the date you separated may be a question of factual dispute.


Anyone in this situation, or who foresees the imminent end of a relationship, should therefore take legal advice immediately as you may need to raise urgent court proceedings to protect your legal rights in this situation.



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