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Dispelling The Legal Myths Surrounding Cohabitation
Figures released in November 2016 by the Office for National Statistics show that the cohabiting couple family continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK in 2016.
There were 3.2 million opposite sex cohabiting couple families and 87,000 same sex cohabiting couple families in the UK in 2016. Together, cohabiting couple families account for 17% of all families in the UK.
Cohabiting couples often mistakenly believe they have similar rights to married couples of the relationship breaks down, or if one party dies. Unfortunately this is not the case. When cohabiting couples separate, there are no automatic rights irrespective of the length of their relationship.
If you are not married then the duration of your cohabitation is not relevant. Your status, at law, does not change with the amount of time you cohabit. You have no automatic right to share in the property owned by your partner, or any assets in your partner’s sole name.
For couples who do not wish to marry or enter into a civil partnership, you can enter into a Cohabitation Agreement (also known as a Living Together Agreement). Whilst no-one likes to think about the end of a relationship, it is important that unmarried couples obtain advice to find out where they stand and discuss what might happen if they were to separate from one another in the future. Taking the time now to put in place a document which sets out very clearly your intentions could save a lot of worry and heartache should the worst happen in the future.
A Cohabitation Agreement can make all the difference should a cohabiting couple separate, as it would set out who owns what and in what proportion (and how it would be divided if you were to separate). It can also outline how any children would be supported and how joint debts, bank accounts, savings and other items (such as a car) will be treated. A cohabitation agreement should be kept under review particularly as to the impact of the arrival of any children.
In the event that a couple subsequently want to get married or enter into a civil partnership it may be appropriate to consider substituting a Pre-Nuptial agreement in place of the cohabitation agreement. In Divorce or dissolution proceedings the court will have regard to the period of time that a couple cohabits prior to the marriage. Any cohabitation agreement or pre-nuptial agreement will need to be considered by the Court when determining financial settlement on divorce.
Here at Tozers LLP we have an experienced team of specialist family lawyers. Please free to contact us for a free, confidential initial appointment to discuss the options available to you. We have Family solicitors in Exeter, Newton Abbot and Teignmouth.
If you require further information or advice in respect of divorce, or any family matter please contact our solicitors in Exeter on 01392 207020.