Guest post by Tina Shah at Gilroy Steel Solicitors
If you live together with your partner, but you aren’t married or in a civil partnership, then you are ‘cohabiting’.
The number of unmarried couples living together has more than doubled from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2017 and that number has been rising steadily since. The number of children living with unmarried parents has risen from 0.9 million in 1996 to 1.8 million in 2012. In addition, there are an estimated 6,000 same-sex couples, not in a civil partnership, who have children.
However, virtually nothing has changed in how the law treats cohabiting couples and their property if they separate. Despite couple’s living together being the fastest growing ‘family type’ in the UK, cohabiting couples have no automatic legal rights and the law in relation to this area has not changed since 1753.
Couples who live together have hardly any of the same rights as married couples or civil partners
There is no such thing as a ‘common law marriage’.
One way to protect yourself and your rights in the future is to have a cohabitation agreement.
What is a Cohabitation Agreement?
It is record of what you and your partner have agreed about how you will own and share your assets. It can also cover how you will support your children, over and above any legal requirement to maintain them. It will help you to think about fair ways to organise your day to day finances and ensures that if your relationship was to end, neither of you would lose out financially. All couples who live together would benefit from having one.
Why should you bother with one?
To help you discuss how things like the rent, mortgage and household bills will be paid to avoid arguments and niggling worries that can build up over time and to make sure that your children will always be properly looked after.
It really comes in useful if you split up, unless you’re married you simply do not have the same rights as you otherwise would. In simple terms, no matter how long a couple have lived together even if they have children, if the relationship breaks down, the parties will usually take out of the relationship the assets they brought in unless any other division has been agreed.
The Child Maintenance Service covers basic maintenance for children if their parents separate, but what about school trips, extra-curricular clubs and uniform? Often those costs are over and above what the parent with main care of the children may be legally entitled to.
In fact making a cohabitation agreement is a loving thing to do as it protects both yourself and your partner from unpleasantness and unfairness in the future.
If in the end you do go on to get married then no harm is done and at least you have peace of mind that you are protected in the meantime.
When should you make one?
Ideally when you first live together, but late is better than never so even if you’ve been together 30 years it’s still a good idea to have one!
Is it legally binding?
It can be written up as a ‘Deed’ which would make it binding. You should both get independent legal advice before signing the agreement.
If you need advice or assistance in relation any family law matter or a relationship breakdown, please do not hesitate to contact Tina Shah at Gilroy Steel Solicitors, with offices in Buckingham, Brackley and Northampton, Tel: 01280 815538 www.gilroysteel.com Find us on Facebook: @GilroySteelFamilyLaw