Many couples believe that if they have been living together for several years, they have similar legal rights to married couples or civil partners. The term ''common law marriage” is often used to describe this kind of relationship and the rights these couples believe they have.
In fact, partners who live together but are not married or in a civil partnership do not gain any automatic rights, however long they have been together.
As specialists in Family Law, we can offer clear, pragmatic advice for cohabiting couples, supporting them to put arrangements in place that provide clarity and certainty for the future.
Providing a solution for cohabiting couples
The absence of automatic legal rights to property and assets, maintenance payments, or access to a partner’s pension can create serious problems for cohabiting couples if they separate. When there is no formal agreement in place, the standard legal processes for determining how assets are treated will be followed. In the case of spouses and civil partners, there are legal provisions that set out how assets will be shared – but there are no equivalent provisions for cohabiting couples.
A simple solution is for cohabitees to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement. This can then be relied upon in the future if the relationship comes to an end, avoiding unnecessary stress and drawn-out, and costly legal proceedings.
A Cohabitation Agreement is a document that regulates what should happen to your assets and finances, as well as provisions for the care of any children if you and your partner separate. It can also be used to state how your finances will be managed during the time you are together, for example, to set out the amount that you will each contribute to household bills or mortgage repayments.
Cohabitation Agreements can provide a range of benefits for couples who live together. You can choose to put in place provisions so that a wealthier partner will provide maintenance payments if the relationship ends, or state what will happen to specific assets. This could mean that one partner will be entitled to continue living in the family home, or that the property will be sold and the profits shared.
Cohabitation Agreements are not automatically legally binding. However, the courts will usually adhere to the terms of any agreement if it is properly drafted and fair to both partners. Both parties must receive independent legal advice before signing a Cohabitation Agreement.
We can support you to draft a formal agreement or provide appropriate legal advice if your partner's solicitor has already prepared an agreement. Whatever your requirements, at Goodsells Family Law, as experts in Family Law, we are on hand to help.