Despite popular belief, there is no such thing in law as a common law spouse. Simply living together as though you are a married couple currently does not provide the same rights and protections as a married couple or a couple in a civil partnership, no matter how long you have lived together and no matter how financially reliant one of you might be on the other.
Although society might be changing, the law has not yet been updated to account for this and provide protection to cohabitees. It is therefore essential for cohabiting couples to be aware of their rights and not to be left with a mistaken belief about what they are entitled to if the relationship ends. It is important for them to know the risks and what they can do to try to protect themselves. The best time for deciding and agreeing who owns what is at the beginning of cohabitation, not at the end.
Considering what might happen at the end of the relationship and what can be done to minimise potential problems is likely to be a difficult and unwelcome topic of conversation but giving some thought to the issues that could arise, and either taking some positive steps now or at least being informed of the legal position in the event of a break up, may prevent some or all of those possible future problems, or at least reduce some of the uncertainty and argument, and therefore hopefully alleviate some of the upset.
One way to address this is for an unmarried couple to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement. This is a written contract that sets out the financial and other arrangements that will apply during the relationship and, in particular, in the event of separation. Matters to consider include your respective shares in the property, your financial contributions or those of your relatives, payment of household bills and the mortgage, the payment of debts, how joint assets would be divided and how the agreement would be affected by the arrival of children.
We can advise you on all aspects of this and prepare the Agreement for you.
Cohabitees should also consider other matters such as Wills, taking expert tax advice and entering into a Declaration of Trust when buying a property together. We can meet with you, consider your needs and your wishes and advise you on the steps that you can take to protect your position for the future.