Cohabitating couples – what are your rights?

Living together? Great! Unfortunately the law hasn’t quite caught up with the times, and both you and your partner could be at risk if the relationship ends.

If you and your partner aren’t married or in a civil partnership, you might be surprised that you have very little legal protection if you break up. It doesn’t matter if you’ve lived together for years or have children. You are not legally recognised as a couple, making it very difficult to claim a share in the family home or your partner’s finances if you split.

For couples living together it can seem normal for one partner to give up work to care for children or elderly relatives – or for a verbal agreement that one pays the mortgage and the other pays the bills. But without having an agreement in place, the court can’t make your ex pay maintenance to support you, just because it might be fair.

Finances and property

Problem – It is not always clear who own what when a relationship ends. Divorcing couples have all of their assets legally divided, but it is much less clear cut for unmarried couples. Without proof of ownership, you may find you have no legal protection.

Solution – A ‘cohabitation agreement’ will set out both you and your partners intentions around property, finance and how you would support your children if you did split up.

Rights of inheritance

Problem – Unless specifically named in a Will, or if a valid Will has not been created, a cohabiting partner has no right to make claims on their partner’s estate if they die.

Solution – You should consider taking out life insurance, and speaking to a solicitor about creating a Will. Don’t leave things up to chance.

By taking some simple precautions early on you can avoid arguments and potentially costly court battles down the line. To discuss any of these matters with a solicitor, please call us today on 01225 755621.

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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