Common law marriage is a myth in English Law and the length of time you’ve lived together carries no legal weight if your relationship breaks down.
So if you’ve moved in or are planning to move in with your partner without getting married, you can protect assets, manage finances and ensure children are provided for if you separate, by putting a Cohabitation Agreement in place.
Cohabitation Agreements, also known as Living Together Agreements, are legally binding in England and Wales, providing that the agreement is written correctly.
For initial advice get in touch with our Family Law Solicitors.
Benefits of Making a Cohabitation Agreement
Protect the Interests of Your Children
If you’re an unmarried couple with children, you’ll want to ensure they’re adequately provided for if you separate and their needs are put first.
With a Cohabitation Agreement, you can get down on paper what would happen to the children if you split up, such as where they would live and what would be expected of both parties when it comes to supporting them. Having this agreed in advance can reduce the chances of you entering into a bitter conflict, which is very important when there are children involved.
Manage Financial Expectations
With a Cohabitation Agreement, you can formalise exactly what’s expected from each of you financially. You can commit to who should pay for what and the size of the financial contribution each person makes to expenses such as mortgage payments and living costs.
The agreement can also address how you’ll treat financial matters such as debts, joint bank accounts and expensive purchases. If you’ve got this information down on paper, the chances of a conflict over money are massively reduced.
Reduce Conflict if You Split Up
By formalising certain aspects of your relationship in a Cohabitation Agreement, there will be fewer grounds for conflict if you separate. Since many key decisions will have already have been made, there’ll be no need to argue over what claim you have over certain assets and possessions. That means you can also avoid a lengthy and costly legal battle.
Establish Shares in Property
If you’re unmarried and jointly own a property, the equity will be divided straight down the middle if you split up. This may be unfair in some cases, such as if one partner contributed a bigger sum when buying the property, or pays a greater share of the mortgage payments.
But with a Cohabitation Agreement, you can state exactly what share of the property you own, so assets can be divided fairly if you separate in the future. Otherwise, you may need to go to Court to challenge for a fair settlement, and even then, you can’t be sure that you’d be successful.
Protection if You Move into a Property Owned by Your Partner
If your partner already owns a property by themselves and then you move in, you don’t have any legal claim to it. It doesn’t matter how many years you have lived together. Ultimately, it will be their name on the Title Deeds, and in legal terms, that’s all that matters when it comes to determining ownership. However, this is a complex area.
If you split up, you might be able to claim in Court that you have a “beneficial interest” in the property. If you have a Cohabitation Agreement in place, you can potentially avoid this unnecessary legal action, expense and potential for further conflict at what’s already a very difficult time.
Our Family Law Solicitors can help you draw up a Cohabitation Agreement, so you can be sure that if you’re unmarried and separate in the future, the interests of you and your children will be protected.
For initial advice call our Family Law & Divorce Solicitors
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