Here in our latest blog, associate and family law expert Rupinder Nandra warns cohabitees about their separation rights ahead of Resolution’s Cohabitation Awareness Week which runs from 25-29 November.
This year, Resolution's Awareness Week will focus on the need for legal reform to provide at least basic rights for cohabiting couples who separate.
Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’ in England and Wales. Couples living together do not have general legal status to a couple, unlike marriage and civil partnership. If you are not legally married then unfortunately your legal protection can be limited if you break up.
Cohabiting couple families are now the fastest growing type of family in the UK. Figures from the Office of National Statistics state that cohabiting couple families grew by 25.8% between 2008 and 2018 in the UK - an increase many are unaware of.
If you are cohabiting then it is important that you and your partner take time to consider your financial arrangements. This can be tricky subject to discuss with a partner who may feel that doubt is being placed on the permanence and longevity of the relationship. However, this should be an important consideration in order to protect yourself and your children if your relationship breaks down.
In short, you must consider having a cohabitation agreement drawn up to ensure each person’s intentions in relation to property and the living arrangements are clear at the outset. Such agreement can record what happens during cohabitation and also if cohabitation comes to an end. It is a step so many miss.
A cohabitation agreement could also detail child maintenance or maintenance for yourself if your partner is the main earner in the family.
Overall, there has been an increase in cohabitation agreements being entered into by cohabitees who are beginning a new relationship following divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. These cohabitees are more aware of the financial repercussions of a relationship breakdown and are also aware that it allows to safeguard their own financial security and to protect any future inheritance.
More people, however, should still follow their lead – especially as the legal cost of drawing up a cohabitation agreement is just a fraction of the cost in comparison to litigation. It is a small price to pay if things go wrong.
For further information on the awareness week, readers can visit https://resolution.org.uk/campaigning-for-change/awareness-raising-week/