There is a common misconception that couples who live together have the same rights as a married couple. This is not the case, and on the breakdown of a relationship the law treats unmarried couples very differently to married couples.
When a married couple separate they can make a claim against each other’s assets, including properties. Unfortunately, there are no such rights for unmarried couples. In order to claim a share of their partner’s property they will have to show there is a written agreement, such as a declaration of trust or cohabitation agreement which confirms their interest in the property. If no such written agreement exists, they have the difficult task of trying to prove that it was the common intention of the parties that they should have an interest or that they have an interest because they have made a contribution to the property.
In order to protect yourself in a cohabiting relationship you can enter into a declaration of trust or cohabitation agreement. These legal documents help couples to deal with potential issues arising in the event of the relationship breaking down. Often people do not consider entering into such an agreement when they move in together. Unfortunately, the sad fact is that many relationships break down and it is sensible to make provision for this if you wish to avoid stressful and costly court proceedings.
Resolution has decided to hold a Cohabitation Awareness Week from 27th November to 1st December 2017 to help dispel the myth of the “common law marriage” and alert people to the difference in legal rights between married and unmarried couples, and what steps an unmarried couple can take to record the interest and rights of each partner in the event of separation.
If you are planning to move in with your partner, are currently in a cohabiting relationship or if you were in a cohabitating relationship which has broken down, please contact us for advice about your situation. All of the family lawyers at Lightfoots LLP are members of Resolution.