It often comes as a surprise to couples who live together and are not married or in a civil partnership, that there is no statutory law in England and Wales to protect them or govern what happens when a relationship breaks down. The phrase, ‘common-law husband or wife’ has no meaning in law.
Dealing with relationship breakdown issues between cohabiting couples currently involves turning to complex and, in certain circumstances, archaic principles of property, trust and contract law. This is all further complicated in the event of one of the partners passing away, or where children are involved.
Whereas married couples who divorce, or civil partners who have their partnership dissolved, have a legal right to maintenance and a share of assets, there are no such rights for cohabiting couples, regardless of how long they have been together or whether they have children.
The solution is to have a cohabitation agreement drawn up. These agreements, also known as ‘living together agreements’, set out who owns what and in what proportion. They allow you to put in writing how your property, assets and belongings will be split should the relationship break down. You can also include details of how children will be supported.
A cohabitation agreement can also be used to document how you and your partner will share the everyday finances while you live together.
Here at Pickering & Butters you will be in expert hands if you are looking to save financial and possibly emotional stress in the future by creating a cohabitation agreement. We have extensive experience in drafting these documents, and can also offer practical advice and helpful guidance if you are facing a relationship breakdown with a cohabitee where no agreement was in place.
For tailored advice on cohabitation agreements, please get in touch.