Families with cohabiting couples are the fastest growing type of alternative family structure according to a statistical bulletin from the Office for National Statistics.
Married or civil partner couple families remain the most common type of family, but there has been a significant surge in people choosing to cohabit without marrying.
Cohabiting couples do not benefit from the same legal recourses as married couples on relationship breakdown. Current legislation does not entitle a cohabitee to make claim for maintenance or to claim a share of their former partner’s assets if their cohabitation ends.
So what can cohabitees do to protect themselves financially if they have decided that marriage or civil partnership isn’t for them?
If you are moving in with a partner but do not wish to get married you can enter into a Cohabitation Agreement. Cohabitation Agreements can record each person’s rights and responsibilities in relation to the following:
- The property where you live (or intend to live together).
- Financial arrangements between you and your partner (both during and following cohabitation).
- The arrangements to be made if you decide to no longer live together.
Why Enter a Cohabitation Agreement?
- If you decide to purchase a property jointly a well-drafted Cohabitation Agreement can record each person’s legal and beneficial interest in the property. This reduces the possibility of disputes regarding ownership if you were to separate.
- Entering into a Cohabitation Agreement gives you the ability to arrange your financial affairs as you wish.
- Cohabitees who want to make arrangements to support their former partner financially following the breakdown of their relationship can do so through a Cohabitation Agreement. This is popular with cohabitees who have children from a previous relationship.
- If you are contributing towards the purchase of a property and want to safeguard your investment a Cohabitation Agreement can assist.
- Where family members have gifted or loaned funds to enable a child to make their purchase, a cohabitation agreement will help protect family money invested in the property.
Cohabitation Agreements are lawful, but they are governed by the ordinary ‘rules of contract’ and as such, they can be challenged on any ordinary contractual principles. This is why it is very important that your Cohabitation Agreement is drafted properly by family lawyers with the right expertise. Using an experienced professional will reduce the scope for argument about the validity and enforceability of the agreement.
If you would like to discuss cohabitation agreements further please call Slater and Gordon Lawyers on freephone 0800 916 9055 or contact us online and we will call you.
Katherine Muldoon is a family law solicitor in the Slater and Gordon Watford office.