Cohabiting couples – what’s the legal position?

Whilst there is an increase in cohabiting couples, family law legislation has not caught up with the times and does not offer the same rights and protection to cohabitees. Cohabiting couples remain at a disadvantage when compared to rights given to married couples.

Unless couples have that quite often difficult conversation about what will happen to their assets on separation, assets built up over the course of the relationship will not be treated in the same way that the assets of married couples are distributed.

Furthermore, an unmarried father will not automatically be granted parental responsibility, as paternity of an unmarried father is not automatically recognised in the way that a married father would, unless the unmarried father is named on the birth certificate.

Why couples cohabit rather than marry

For some couples the view is that cohabiting is a preferred choice that takes the “hassle” out of being married.  Cohabitee couples are more able to maintain financial independence and feel less pressure to merge their financial arrangements.

There is the ability to swiftly end the relationship when things are not working out, there is no public, lengthy, often acrimonious and sometimes costly divorce process. The blame game of ending a marriage is averted.

Whilst marriage can carry a religious symbolism to some, there has certainly been a shift in attitudes towards religion with a decrease in the importance of religion.  With less religious ideology impacting relationships there is quite simply less pressure to get married.

Cohabitation Agreement

One solution is to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement. A Cohabitation Agreement allows the parties to formalise their arrangements at any stage of their relationship, including following separation. Many unmarried couples who buy property together enter into a cohabitation agreement as without this major issues and risks can arise especially if there are unequal financial contributions to the deposit, mortgage or outgoings. Another very important reason to consider a cohabitation agreement is if the couple have children

Just as important is to note that assets will not automatically pass to a cohabiting partner upon death unless formalised by a will.

Solicitors for a cohabitation agreement or advice on cohabitation

Our experienced family lawyers will be pleased to discuss all your options and advise you on the best way to protect your rights  and avoid a painful financial and emotional dispute.

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