More than 5.9 million people in the UK are choosing to live together without marrying yet few are aware that they have little or no legal protection if their relationship ends.
With cohabiting couple families now the fastest growing type of household, the family law body Resolution has launched a campaign to raise awareness of the risks facing those in this kind of relationship.
More than half of cohabitees still believe they are protected under “common law marriage” and Cohabitation Awareness Week (27th November to 1st December 2017) aims to dispel this myth and present options for people to protect themselves.
It doesn’t matter whether they have been living together for a few months or many years, there are no laws to dictate how cohabiting couples should divide their assets if they separate. As a result, relationship breakdown can lead to severe financial and emotional stress and hardship.
In practical terms, if the house shared by a cohabiting couple is in one of their names, the other can be asked to leave and would have no claim on the property. There is also no legal requirement for one party to support the other financially after separation.
In the absence of a marriage contract, unmarried couples should seriously consider a cohabitation agreement to provide some legal protection in the event of relationship breakdown. All cohabiting couples should seek legal advice about drawing up a will to set out their wishes should one of them die.
Cohabiting couples who separate should seek legal advice as soon as possible to discuss their options. Ideally, they should talk to a family solicitor in the early stages of their relationship basing their plans on staying together but deciding what arrangements should be made if life doesn’t turn out as they hope. A legal agreement will help them avoid issues in the future if things don’t work out between them.
Contact us for advice on cohabitation, separation and living together agreements.
Carol Jessop is the only family lawyer in Harrogate accredited by Resolution as a cohabitation law specialist.