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Cohabitation

Couples who live together without being married or without having entered into a civil partnership do not have the benefit of the rules and processes organised by the family court. It does not matter how long you have lived together nor how many children you might have together. You are still not considered on the same footing as a divorcing couple.

Most people don’t realise that there is no such thing as a common law spouse. If you’re thinking about cohabiting or buying a property together you should take advice from one of our specialist cohabitation lawyers about how to protect your position in case your relationship later breaks down. We can prepare for you a cohabitation agreement which will set out what should happen if your relationship breaks down. It could save you from a lengthy and costly legal dispute.

This means that the old civil trust laws are brought into any disputes. This can lead to uncertainty and to increased legal costs.

What happens to assets jointly acquired?

In brief, assets jointly acquired may have to be sold for each of you to obtain 50% of their value. This can apply to your house. You need to consider carefully the terms of ownership. If one party or the other has contributed capital or work to increase the value of the property (such as building an extension for example) that may be taken into account in deviating from the usual 50% share, but it is something which has to be looked at on an individual basis. The rules in relation to this are highly complex and technical.

Legal disputes in respect of property

If you cannot reach agreement, the courts are going to have to consider what your intentions were at the time of the purchase of the property and whether those intentions have changed over time. The courts will need evidence of this which can be complex, time consuming and expensive to gather.

Because of the complexity of dealing with couples who live together, solicitors will urge couples to prepare cohabitation agreements before they start living together and they will be asked about their intentions when they purchase property together. The aim is to try and simplify the issues in the event of a future separation.

Financial provisions in respect of children

There is no legal requirement for one partner to pay support to the other. The support for the children can be claimed through the Child Maintenance Service but this is for the children only and does not include separate support for the mother/father.

The courts can make specific orders for capital for the children of unmarried parents by provision of a lump sum for them or indeed provision of housing while the children are still minors. The house will then normally revert back to that parent when the children have reached adulthood. It does not become the asset of the primary carer unless this has been agreed or ordered by the Court.

To ensure your interests and those of any children are properly looked after, you will need specialist advice by experts in Cohabitation Law.

Pension sharing provisions

There is no provision for sharing of pensions as would be the case for divorcing couples.

Other assets

Other assets such as household contents, cars and the like will remain the property of the person who purchased them or in whose name they are, subject to variation by agreement or, if necessary, by court order.

Our expertise

If your relationship has broken down you should also take advice to make sure that your position and the position of any children you may have is protected. Our family lawyers have extensive experience in dealing with issues which affect people who cohabit both at the start of their relationship and when things don’t work out as you’d hoped.

At the first meeting we will be able to advise you on costs and potential settlements.

Our family law team confidently and expertly deal with:

  • Pre-Nuptial and Post-Nuptial agreements
  • Cohabitation disputes
  • Financial settlements for partners and children
  • Inheritance claims

For further information on Civil Partnerships, Cohabitation Law and Cohabitation Agreements, contact our Family Team on 01823 446200. Alternatively, freephone 0800 862 0442 or complete our online enquiry form and we'll contact you as soon as possible.  

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