Need Help With Cohabitation Matters?
Stowe Family Law assists many couples who live together without marriage. Some wish to draw up a cohabitation agreement to clarify the ownership of shared assets, such as their home. Others seek 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 similar to that when married couples separate in England and Wales recognising the needs of a cohabiting couple if their relationship breaks down. In the event of a property dispute, trust and land law is applied.
There are, however, laws concerning the children of cohabiting couples who separate. The law makes no distinction between married and unmarried parents when deciding such issues as child contact and residence – who the child or children will live with and how often they will see the other parent. The key legal difference between married and cohabiting couples is the financial provisions the court can make for the other party when they separate – and those are much more limited for cohabiting couples.
Read our cohabitation FAQs
Stowe Family Law Founder, Marilyn Stowe was a member of the Legal Advisory Group to the Law Commission. This called upon the Government to give new legal rights to cohabiting couples in 2007. Stowe Family Law solicitors have also spoken about cohabitation and made arguments for improved rights on several BBC Radio broadcasts and in The Times.
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 or divided. 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 many former cohabitees have discovered to their cost, making claims about what may or may not have been agreed years before is unlikely to sway family courts 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 for Cohabiting Couples
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 available on divorce. The law does not recognise “common law spouses”.
As a result, the breakdown of a relationship or the death of one party 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, for example, applications may be made on behalf of the children under the Children Act 1989.
If you have not found what you are looking for, then please read our cohabitation FAQs.
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 Stowe Family Law.