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Family law & divorce solicitors – London, Harrogate, Leeds, Wilmslow, Hale and Wetherby

Cohabiting Couples

Stowe Family Law assists many clients with cohabitation matters. Some wish to draw up a cohabitation agreement to clarify the ownership of shared assets. Others seek practical advice and legal assistance after a relationship has broken down or a partner has died.

Every year, Stowe Family Law assists hundreds of clients with matters relating to cohabitation and the law. Some are about to move in with a new partner, and wish to draw up a cohabitation agreement to clarify the ownership of shared property and other assets. Many others seek the firm’s practical advice and legal assistance after a relationship has broken down or a partner has died.  

As the marriage rate in England and Wales continues to decline, the number of unmarried, but cohabiting couples continues to rise. At present, however, there is no law in place tailored to the needs of a cohabiting couple – and any children they may have together – if their relationship breaks down. In the event of a property dispute, trust and land law is applied.

Stowe Family Law solicitors, with their extensive experience of such cases, are often called upon to provide expert advice and commentary. The firm’s senior partner, Marilyn Stowe, was a member of the Legal Advisory Group to the Law Commission, which called upon the Government to give new legal rights to cohabiting couples in 2007. Mrs Stowe has also appeared on BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour and has written for The Times, setting out the arguments in favour of improved rights.

Cohabitation Agreements

If you do not wish to marry your partner, or cannot do so, you should take steps to ensure that your partner and any children will be provided for, should anything unexpected happen.

Decide how property and assets should be owned. Consult a solicitor at Stowe Family Law, to ensure that a cohabitation agreement is correctly drafted and given full legal effect.

For example, if you are about to purchase a property with a new partner, it is essential that before the purchase takes place, ownership of that property is agreed and reflected in an appropriate declaration of trust. As former cohabitees have discovered to their cost, raising arguments about what may or may not have been agreed years before is unlikely to sway the court without the clearest evidence in support.

Whenever we assist our clients with cohabitation agreements at Stowe Family Law, we also make additional recommendations to safeguard our clients’ assets and intentions. For example, we recommend that every cohabiting client makes a will and insures his or her life. The latter is especially important if you are a financial provider, with dependents or other financial obligations.

Relationship Breakdown

It is important to understand that cohabitees, no matter how long they have been living as husband or wife, are not afforded the same rights upon the breakdown of the relationship as those which arise on divorce. The law does not recognise “common law spouses.”

As a result, the breakdown of a relationship can be a financial disaster for a dependent cohabitee. There is no maintenance, and no automatic entitlement to make property, capital or pension claims. The children of such a relationship may be left at a financial disadvantage.

There are, however, some remedies – and every year, Stowe Family Law helps many clients in this situation who benefit from the firm’s prompt advice and extensive expertise in this area of family law. For example, applications may be made on behalf of the children under the Children Act 1989.

We will be happy to advise you further, and to consider the position also if the relationship should end by the death of either party. For further information or to make an appointment, please contact Morna Rose at Stowe Family Law.


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