How often do you still hear the phrase “Common Law husband and wife”?  There are any number of unmarried couples who believe that they are protected by common law, hence this much abused term is still used today. In fact a recent survey suggests that 40% of the adult population believe that simply living together can give you the same rights as a married couple.

The reality is that it does not, and that the common law offers cohabiting couples no protection when separating. Others believe that by having a child together they acquire legal rights, whether married or not. They too are mistaken. And with couples living together without being married being the fastest growing type of family in the UK, disputes are on the increase.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

1. Enter into a Cohabitation Agreement before living together.

If you really want to protect yourself then you can, by the use of a Cohabitation Agreement, agree details of your financial arrangements. This will clarify what should happen to your capital assets should you separate and it can act as an encouragement for you and your partner to consider what you would want to happen if your relationship ended. Cohabitation Agreements can include provision for the following:-

  • Ownership of certain assets, e.g. cars
  • Mortgage contributions
  • Payment of household bills
  • Ownership of joint property
  • Life insurance and nomination of death in service benefits
  • Gifts and inheritances

We often don’t check our rights when in a cohabiting relationship because it seems unromantic, or even untrusting, to raise legal and financial issues with each other. However exploring the “what if’s …” before difficulties arise can put you and your family on a more secure footing and provide peace of mind. Cohabitation Agreements have yet to be tested in the courts but they provide useful evidence of a couple’s common intention.

2. Enter into a Declaration of Trust when purchasing property.

3. Issue court proceedings under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996. 

If you are about to start cohabiting, are separating or have recently separated then contact Noelle Heath at Morrish solicitors LLP on 033 33449600 or by e-mail to noelle.heath@morrishsolicitors.com. Noelle will discuss your options and how your rights can best be protected.