Are you cohabiting? Things you should be aware of…

Atifha Aftab

Article written by Atifha Aftab, Solicitor, Family department

If you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership, you will have very little legal protection should the relationship come to an end. In this article, we explore the legal differences between married and non–married couples and provide tips to ensure you are protected from a legal aspect.

1) There is no such thing as a common-law marriage

The notion of being a ‘common law marriage’ for couples that have lived together for a while is a myth. Such individuals are not entitled to the same levels of legal protection that those married or in a civil partnership can benefit from.

2) There is no entitlement to maintenance or financial support for non-married couples

Unlike divorcees, where one party can be ordered to pay financial support to the other, particularly when younger children are involved, there is no such entitlement for non-married couples, even if joint mortgages, joint assets, or joint debts are involved.

3) You may not have a claim to your property

If a property is held in one party’s name, the partner not named on the deeds may be left with no legal interest in the property despite living and paying towards it.

4) There may be no ‘automatic entitlement’ if your partner dies

If your partner passes away, those in unmarried or civil partnerships, would not be automatically entitled to any assets, including property.

Here are four tips for non-married couples to ensure they do not fall foul to the above scenarios:

1) You could enter into a Cohabitation Agreement.

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding written contract between a couple who live or intend to live together but are not married or in a civil partnership. Such an agreement can cover matters like how household costs and debts will be paid, the ownership of property, and how money, property, other assets, and debts will be divided if the relationship breaks down.

2) You could put a Pre-Marriage Agreement in place.

If you intend to marry in the future or are engaged, you can sign a Pre-Nuptial Agreement (or Pre-Civil Partnership Agreement) which sets out what you have agreed upon should the relationship break down.

3) You could write or update your Will.

A Will can protect your wealth and assets, setting out what should happen upon death. If you are living with a long-term partner, you can list them as a ‘beneficiary’ to ensure they can live in the joint property in the future.

4) You could marry or enter into a civil partnership.

This would provide legal protection for both parties.

If you would like to discuss any aspect of this article or for advice on a particular family law matter, please feel free to email me or contact the team on 020 8858 6971.