The legal rights of cohabiting couples
If you are living with your partner but you are not married to them, or you are in a civil partnership, you are legally defined to be a ‘cohabiting couple’. In 2017, over 17 per cent of families were found to be a ‘cohabiting couple family’. That’s a total of 3.3 million families.
Unmarried cohabiting couples generally assume that living together for a set amount of years will allow them the same or similar legal rights as married couples. However, this is not entirely the case.
As a cohabiting couple you need to be aware that during any legal proceedings following a separation, courts would not take into account the length of time you and your partner have cohabited together.
This means that things like household contributions and time spent raising your children would not be considered when negotiating financial settlement agreements. Therefore, if you do not have a cohabitation agreement in place you could be left with nothing, depending your circumstances.
Getting a cohabitation agreement
Moving in with your partner is a very exciting time. It’s a time in which you are moving forward in your relationship by creating a home for yourself and the person you love.
Most people are aware that there’s a chance that the good times may not last, and that the relationship could end at some point. However, not everyone knows how to protect themselves in the event of a breakup.
To protect you and your partner from a messy, long-lasting and complicated break-up, we always advise unmarried couples to put a cohabitation agreement in place.
A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding document signed by both partners that gives them similar rights to a married couple.
Within the agreement couples agree what will happen if they break up. Depending on the personal circumstances, the agreement states what will happen with regard to things like the family home, financial support, child maintenance and any shared debts.
Protection for both you and your partner
Signing a cohabitation agreement with your partner doesn’t mean that either of you are unsure of your relationship or about your choice to move in together.
It simply provides protection so you can you live together freely, without worries about your future or your finances. Importantly, neither of you needs to feel like you have to stay with your partner because of your joint responsibilities. You can stay together because you want to stay together.
Separating without a cohabitation agreement
If you’ve been in a committed relationship for a number of years before separating without a cohabitation agreement, many issues can pop up after your relationship has come to an end.
It is common for at least one of you to move out of your shared property, which can leave either one or both of you in a complicated financial situation. With a cohabitation agreement in place you can prevent these difficulties from happening.
Financial concerns following a separation
If you are left staying in the home, you will suddenly have to cover all the bills on your own. If you opted for a rental or mortgage that you were able to afford on a shared income, then you might not be able to cover these costs by yourself.
The break up could also leave you on the opposite side of that fence. If the house was rented or bought entirely in your partners name, you are likely to be the one moving out. Even if you were paying your partner half of their mortgage payments, you won’t have any legal entitlement to that property.
In a worst-case scenario, especially if the break up is abrupt, you could find yourself with nowhere to live.
Your cohabitation will prevent this from happening, even if the separation isn’t friendly. In the agreement you can agree together how any costs for both parties will be covered so neither of you will have to live in fear of financial worries.
Buying a property together as unmarried partners
When you choose to buy a property together it is important that you and your partner agree what would happen if your relationship did end.
You would need to arrange who would stay in the property, or if the property should be sold.
It doesn’t matter if you own the property in equal or unequal shares. Each share should always be clearly defined in legal documentation that you can refer back to if necessary.
If a mortgage is shared you should further define how mortgage payments and other bills will be divided after a break up. Will you both continue to pay for the mortgage until you sell the property? Or will the person moving out pay less, or even nothing, during the separation or sales process?
In some cases, one person may wish to purchase the other’s share. Clear guidelines as to what rights each person has could significantly simplify this situation at an already emotional and complicated time.
You may also need to discuss the amount of deposit paid when the property was purchased, since your contributions may have been different. Without cohabitation or other financial documents in place, you will probably both receive an equal – yet in many cases unfair – share.
Cohabitation agreement guidance and support
Family law solicitors for cohabitation agreements
Our expert family law solicitors will be able to assist and advise you on setting up cohabitation contracts to help safeguard your future.
Your cohabitation agreement can be set out while you are first moving in with your partner or when you have already been living together for a number of years.
We can offer you our expert legal advice, guidance and support when we set out your cohabitation agreement, and when the worst was to happen, we will be here throughout your separation too.
Legal representation after separation
Following a separation from your unmarried partner you may need assistance handling your negotiations and separation agreements.
If no agreements can be made, legal entitlements, specific agreements and orders may be decided by the courts. If this happens, we can represent you.
Our solicitors are always sympathetic to your situation. With the level of expertise and care we provide, you can be sure we will find the best possible outcome for you.
No matter how simple or complicated your case is, we are here to take on your cohabiting matters from beginning to end.
Starting the process couldn’t be more simple!
- Contact us Get in touch however suits you best and arrange a consulation with one of our solicitors
- Meet an expert You’ll meet the expert solicitor assigned to your case and discuss all the necessary details
- Authorise Once we’ve got all the details of your case and you’re happy to proceed, just give us the go-ahead
- We get to work It’s time for us to get to work! We’ll set up your file on our system and get to work right away
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