Living Together (or Cohabitation) Agreements are becoming increasingly popular in the UK. It is a well-known fact that marriage rates are falling and people are choosing to cohabit together instead. However, as the law stands today, there is very little legal protection for cohabitees who suffer a relationship breakup and need to resolve disputes that may have arisen in respect of property or children. It can save huge amounts of money if you think about these things at the outset.
Cohabitation breakups are enormously complicated where there are disputed property interests and legal costs can run into the thousands. Often, these costs can be avoided by having a Living Together Agreement which sets out what you and your partner have agreed will happen if you break up.
It is a common mistake to think that if you live with someone for a period of time you acquire the same rights as a husband or wife because you become a common law husband or wife. This is completely wrong. Cohabitees cannot rely on the family court to determine an appropriate financial settlement for them in the same way as divorcees or same sex couples who marry can. Men and women who are primary carers of any child or children of the marriage can be particularly disadvantaged because their ability to bring claims are much more limited than if they were married.
For example, a husband or wife with care of the children can bring claims for spousal maintenance as well as child maintenance against the other spouse to help them with the living expenses of the family, but an unmarried carer has no such right to bring claims for spousal maintenance.
Even where there are no children to consider, a cohabitee who is not on the legal title to a property may find that they lose their home if the relationship breaks up because they occupy that property only with the consent of the other who is the legal owner. If that consent is withdrawn because the relationship has broken down, they could be out on the street.
A Living Together Agreement could include provisions that regulate this situation so that both parties know who gets what in terms of property, whether a notice period has to be given if one is to leave the property, whether the property is to be sold etc. Conversely, the sole legal owner of a property who moves his or her partner in may not realise that his or her partner may start accruing a financial interest in the property if they help to pay the mortgage or put money into improvements to the home, even if they are never put on the title deeds to the property.
A Living Together Agreement could include provisions that regulate this situation too to avoid later dispute arising about whether a financial interest in the property does arise for the non-legal owner and what their share should be if they do establish a claim.
If you think about these things at the outset, you can deal with them properly by entering into a Living Together Agreement to record the financial arrangements that are to apply in respect of property, children, wills and legacies, ownership of chattels (e.g. cars, jewellery, antiques) and many other topics relevant to cohabitation.
They can be very simple contracts dealing with one or two matters only or they can be quite complex. Either way, any of our team can assist you in the drafting of a bespoke agreement that deals with the issues that are important to you.