Swindon Family Lawyer, Catherine Smith, considers why all unmarried couples should consider putting in place a cohabitation agreement.
Contact Catherine on 01793 615011 or complete the Contact Form at the foot of this page.
Check out our main Cohabitation Agreements page.
There are approaching 4 million cohabiting couples in the UK. And a significant proportion of that number believe they have rights similar to a married couple, particularly if the period of cohabitation has been long or they have children together. But the concept of “common law marriage” is a total legal fiction. In reality, the law in England and Wales provides little protection for unmarried couples.
How can cohabitees protect themselves?
Of course, cohabitees can better protect themselves by marrying or entering into a civil partnership. But for various reasons, that may not be right or even possible for everyone. And most couples who intend to marry eventually cohabit beforehand.
As a cohabitee, if your relationship breaks down, you have no legal right to share your former partner’s income or assets, for example, their pension or savings. If you disagree on what should happen to your home, whether owned jointly or in one partner’s sole name, the law applied is complex, and such disputes can prove expensive.
Children are also a major consideration. This is not just in terms of parenting issues such as which parent the child(ren) should live with, but also ensuring sufficient financial provision.
What is a cohabitation agreement?
Whether or not you are already living together, a formal, written cohabitation agreement allows you to detail what property and assets each of you own. And crucially, you can set out clearly how they will be split in case your relationship breaks down. You can also decide how children will be supported.
However, you should note that a cohabitation agreement cannot provide for pension sharing on separation. Pensions can only be shared on divorce.
Some couples decide to use a cohabitation agreement to go further still. For example, they may set out rules or guidelines on managing day-to-day finances during the relationship or name each other next-of-kin.
How do I make a cohabitation agreement?
You can make a cohabitation agreement anytime, even if you have lived together for many years. Indeed, arguably it’s even more important to do so if that’s the case.
Our team have considerable expertise in drafting cohabitation agreements. We will also advise whether you should consider any other steps to protect your position. That might include making Wills or drafting a declaration of trust regarding jointly owned property. Our specialist solicitors are available on 01793 615011. Alternatively, you can email us or complete the Contact Form at the foot of this page.
Remember, entering into a cohabitation agreement is not unromantic. Rather, it’s pragmatic, and most couples find reassurance in removing much of the uncertainty of cohabitation.