Many couples now decide to live together before entering marriage or a civil partnership – and while living together may seem like a flexible but secure arrangement, it can be fraught with legal complications and misunderstandings if the relationship breaks down or a couple living together decide to separate.
The most common misconception about cohabiting is that the parties are protected by “common law” if they separate and property will be shared equally as if they were married.
This is not correct, however – as “common law spouses” are not recognised in law.
This means that one partner can end up being homeless if their name is not on the deeds of the property they live in – and it may take a legal battle to prove they significantly contributed to the mortgage of the property or refurbishments.
In reality, if you paid for the sofa, you may be able to take the sofa when you split with your partner – but it is not likely you would have a claim on their property if they own the home you shared.
The easiest way to avoid financial loss and disputes when you stop living with a partner is for both parties to sign a cohabitation agreement setting out your personal property and joint possessions.
This is crucial if you have children together or children from a previous relationship who live with you.
Issues a cohabitation agreement usually covers include:
In drawing up a cohabitation agreement it is crucial to take legal advice – especially in situations where one cohabitee may have considerably more income or assets, or is the owner of the property where you will both live.
A cohabitation agreement can also be used to stipulate what would happen if one cohabitee died or was incapacitated and how the property would be shared.
People who consider themselves to be “common law spouses” are often left devastated when a partner dies and they realise that under current law, they may not receive the share they expected from their partner’s estate –potentially causing financial hardship and the added distress of losing their home, as well as their partner.
If you are living with a partner who is not yet divorced or you are not divorced and they own the property you live in together, it is advisable to take advice as soon as possible on your legal position.
Duncan Lewis divorce solicitors offer expert and detailed legal advice to individuals and couples wishing to draw up a cohabitation agreement.
Duncan Lewis also has successful departments specialising in family and children law, property law and litigation, able to advise on the various issues in cohabitation agreements – as well as how to ensure a cohabitation agreement best suits your future needs and those of any children.
Duncan Lewis also has considerable expertise in international marriage and divorce, high net worth divorce and marriage and divorce under Islamic law.
Duncan Lewis divorce solicitors offer an initial client meeting with a fixed fee for cases involving cohabitation agreements.
Once the details of a case have been assessed it is usually possible to offer a further fixed fee scale, which clients will be advised of in advance.
Duncan Lewis advises clients considering signing a cohabitation agreement to get in touch as soon as possible for an assessment of their case, so that matters can be worked through thoroughly before you begin cohabiting.
For expert legal advice on Cohabitation Agreements and related family matters, call Duncan Lewis Divorce Solicitors in confidence on 020 7923 4020.