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Why Barbie and Ken need a cohabitation agreement

Behind the stereotypical glamour and charm of Barbie and Ken’s lifestyle lies a historically unconventional relationship. 

Barbie and Ken live together but are not married, meaning they are a cohabiting couple – rare back in the sixties when the power couple first got together.

Barbie is by far the wealthiest of the pair. Throughout her successful and varied career, she has amassed the Dreamhouse and the classic car, among other high-value assets, and lives a luxurious lifestyle.

Ken, on the other hand, is the financially weaker partner, with fewer notable assets to his name.

Let’s imagine Barbie and Ken end their relationship once and for all. As cohabitees, what would they need to know?

Family Lawyer Filomena Sterkaj explains why Barbie and Ken need a cohabitation agreement.

No happy ending for Barbie and Ken

Barbie and Ken’s decision to cohabit means that unlike their married counterparts, they have no general legal status as a couple. In other words, they have no legal protection if they separate or one of them dies.

Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a ‘common law’ wife or husband. Nor is there a period of time after which unmarried couples are automatically entitled to a share of their partner’s assets, as some believe.

The lack of legal protection for cohabitees, means unmarried couples have no legal rights or responsibilities towards each other which can leave them vulnerable.

Who gets the Dreamhouse?

In the case of Barbie and Ken, Barbie is the sole owner of the Dreamhouse and her pink Corvette car, making these assets exclusively hers. Should they decide to part ways Ken would not automatically be entitled to a share of Barbie’s assets.

Good news for Barbie. But what about Ken?

Let’s say Ken had made financial contributions towards the Dreamhouse during their relationship, this could potentially give rise to proceedings under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act (TOLATA).

If Ken can demonstrate that he made substantial contributions towards the property’s acquisition or mortgage payments, he might have a claim to a portion of the property’s value.

Whether you’re Barbie, or Ken, it’s equally important to clarify financial arrangements and property ownership from the outset.

How could a Cohabitation Agreement help?

While not entirely glamourous, safeguarding their individual interests now would mean Barbie and Ken could set out their agreed financial position, avoid legal complexities, and both benefit from some financial security for the future.

They would be wise to consider a Cohabitation Agreement. This is a contract between unmarried couples who live together that establishes clear arrangements for finances, property, and other matters that applies during their relationship, and in the event of a breakup or death. And provided it is drafted and executed properly by a family lawyer, a cohabitation agreement can be legally binding.

How could Barbie protect her assets?

Now, let’s say Barbie and Ken decide to tie the knot one day, each of their assets could then become matrimonial assets. This includes the Dreamhouse and the pink Corvette.

To safeguard her personal assets and future financial security, Barbie may consider a Prenuptial Agreement before they get married. This Prenup can outline how her personal assets, property and money will be divided in case of divorce, giving her peace of mind for the future, and Ken a clear understanding before they wed.

The rise in cohabitation

Barbie and Ken’s situation isn’t unusual in the Real World, with a reported 24.3% of couples in the UK cohabiting.

As the number of marriages continues to decline, it becomes even more crucial for couples to understand their legal standing and seek professional advice to protect their interests.

Get in touch

For more information about cohabitation rights, cohabitation agreements and prenuptial agreements, please do get in touch with our Client Care Team using the details below or make an online enquiry.

Useful links

Advantages and disadvantages of cohabitation

Prenups, petnups and postnups: a pragmatic approach to marriage

Cohabitation law: UK Gov confirm no change in sight

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The blog team at Stowe is a group of writers based across our family law offices who share their advice on the wellbeing and emotional aspects of divorce or separation from personal experience. As well as pieces from our family law solicitors, guest contributors also regularly contribute to share their knowledge.

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