Cohabiting couples are couples who live together without marrying or entering into a civil partnership.
It is important to know that unmarried partners do not have the same legal rights or duties to each other as those who are married. The court does not have the same power to distribute property and other assets. This is the case even if they have children together and regardless of the length of time they have lived together.
The financial orders available under the matrimonial law do not apply to cohabiting couples
Couples may consider making a will or getting a cohabitation agreement to protect their interests. A cohabiting couple can enter into an agreement setting out the arrangements which will apply whilst they are living together, as well as establishing rights on the breakdown of the relationship.
The main issues which could usefully be covered in a cohabitation agreement are as follows:
- Ownership of real and personal property
- Finances, e.g. how to divide bills and resolve ownership of joint accounts
- Children, e.g. their maintenance and surnames (any agreement in relation to children will be limited by the law and will be open to review by the court)
- Other matters
A cohabitation agreement is not binding on a court, although the courts will consider them as evidence of the intention of the parties. Weight will be specifically placed on a co-habitation agreement in resolving disputes in the following circumstances:
- Both parties had separate independent legal advice
- There was full financial disclosure by both parties
- There was no undue influence or duress and both parties had been given time to reflect on the agreement before signing
- The agreement was fair and fully understood by the parties
- The agreement was reviewed periodically and where there was a significant change of circumstance, such as the birth of a child
It is very important for couples to make a will if they are cohabiting without being married or in a civil partnership. On death, they could find that their property passes to someone other than their partner regardless of their wishes. A will might appoint a guardian for any children and deal with the division of assets.
At Chris Alexander Solicitors, we can help prepare and advised on the matters to be covered in the cohabitation agreement for a fixed fee. We can also advise you on the possibility of making your agreement a deed to avoid potential problems arising. The fixed fee will depend upon the complexity of your matter and extent and value of the assets.