Cohabitation Awareness Week 2017

November 27, 2017 8:50 am - Categorised in: ,

As family lawyers we regularly work with couples whose relationships have sadly broken down. Increasingly we meet with couples who are cohabiting – living together but unmarried. They are the fastest growing family type in the UK, with recent figures showing there are over 3.3 million cohabiting couples.

Common Law Marriage: Myth

It’s a sensitive, but an important issue to address. In the event of separation, couples in this position should be made aware they have little or no legal protection. Despite the commonly held belief, there is no such thing as a “common law marriage”.

Under the current law if you are not married or in a civil partnership, it’s possible to live with someone for decades, even to have children together, and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for their partner. If one person owns the family home, the other person can find themselves with little or no legal redress if the relationship breaks down. Even if the couple have lived together for years.

Cohabitation Awareness Week

As part of our national Cohabitation Awareness Week, Resolution (the family justice organisation we belong to) has joined with a range of organisations in calling for legal protection for these increasing numbers of people in the event of separation. With the current law in place, cohabiting couples need to be aware of their lack of rights. Couples in these situations should consider taking measures to protect themselves in case their relationship breaks down.

What can you do?

  • Document your intentions from the start. Put yourself in a place of security regarding finances and property by having a Cohabitation Agreement. We regularly prepare these for couples who are planning to live together. They avoid any room for argument further down the line. They are bespoke documents and can cover everything you wish it to.
  • Consider taking out life insurance.
  • Make a Will. If one partner in a cohabiting relationship dies, the survivor does not automatically have a right to inherit property or possessions. It needs to be set out clearly in a will.
  • At the very least, people cohabiting should find out about their legal rights, or lack of them, if they end up separating.

More information is available on both our own website and the Resolution website.

If you wish to discuss this in more detail for your particular circumstances, please contact a member of our Family Team for personal face to face advice.

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