6 Essential tips for unmarried Expat Couples

Cohabiting couples: What you need to know


For unmarried British expat couples who are living with their partner abroad or considering moving, there are 6 essential considerations:

    1. Consider the potential criminal implications of living abroad as an unmarried couple: In Middle Eastern countries such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain, Kuwait and Qatar, it can be a criminal offence for couples to live together unmarried. These laws apply to Muslim and non-Muslim expatriates alike. Whilst several Middle East countries may cast a blind eye to unmarried cohabitation, issues can arise when obtaining visas, or on the birth of a child outside marriage.
    2. Consider whether you will be able to obtain a visa as a dependent when unmarried, including the ability (inability) to obtain visas for children of unmarried parents in certain countries.
    3. Consider the potential criminal implications of having a child abroad if you are unmarried. Several countries in the Middle East will not freely issue a certificate of birth to a child born to unmarried parents (as the child is proof of a relationship outside marriage, which in many Muslim countries is a criminal offence). In some Middle East countries, the birth of a child outside wedlock may result in imprisonment and subsequent deportation for the mother and child. A child can be considered born outside marriage, if parents were married less than 6 months before the child was born.
    4. Consider where legal help can be sought: On separation of unmarried expatriate couples living abroad, many may find that the English courts would not accept an application for financial claims, as ‘jurisdiction’ cannot be established if they are living outside England. There are exceptions, and careful advice should be sought before a move overseas.
    5. Consider that in the country in which you live, if in a Muslim country, you may not have access to the courts in relation to children issues if you are unmarried. You may also find yourself unable to use the English courts if your children are living abroad and so in between legal systems. Your ability to relocate with your children, your rights following separation, and your entitlement requires careful consideration especially if you are unmarried.
    6. Consider obtaining a ‘cohabitation agreement’ to protect yourself in the event of a relationship breakdown. Such agreements can be drafted to reflect the different laws in the country in which a British expat resides; this is essential to ensure enforceability of an agreement. The agreement can include how assets will be divided on separation, maintenance that will be paid, but also arrangements concerning children such as the ability to take a child outside the country, on holiday or permanently, or future schooling arrangements.

Read more about the legal implications of cohabiting as an expat, and the myths about ‘common law’ wives here.

Contact us at info@expatriatelaw.com for confidential and clear advice from an experienced family lawyer within our team.