More couples than ever are now choosing to live together and remain unmarried. Reasons vary although the high cost of a wedding and the desire to purchase a property before spending thousands of pounds on a wedding are among common reasons why people are choosing not to tie the knot.
Recent figures show that there are now 3.3 million cohabiting couple families in the UK. Cohabiting couples do not have the same rights as married couples upon separation and when a cohabiting relationship breaks down, there is little that the weaker party can do to protect themselves financially such as they have no right to claim any personal maintenance even if they have always been supported financially by their partner.
Furthermore, if the weaker party does not own the property in which they have lived with their partner, they will have no legal right to a share of the property even if they have contributed to the mortgage or paid towards the property in other ways such as decoration or building works. An attempt by the weaker party to claim a share of the property through the court system is dealt with by way of land and trust law which is complicated and very expensive to take through the court system, which often leaves the weaker party unable to take the matter further.
The Government does not appear to want to do anything about the rights of cohabitees any time soon even though it is clear that the law needs to catch up with modern living. It is therefore advisable for cohabiting couples to draw up a cohabitation agreement, otherwise known as a living together agreement setting out how they will divide up their assets upon separation and can include provision for any children. It can also set out how the couple will manage their finances whilst they are living together such as contributions to the mortgage, payment of bills, insurance and any home improvements which are to be carried out.
Both parties can agree on the terms of the agreement before seeing a solicitor who will then draw up the agreement and send it to the other party to seek their own legal advice and go through it. The agreement must be fairly entered into by both parties.
If you would like more information, speak to our Family Law Solicitor, Louisa Gothard on 020 7998 7777 or email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.