Many couples live together without getting married, but what does this mean if you decide to separate? There is a lot of confusion about legal rights when it comes to cohabitation compared to marriage, mainly regarding financial matters. While there may be a Cohabitation Rights Bill passed in the future, there is still some way to go before this happens.
Until then, getting the right support and legal advice is vital to give you better financial protection.
Is there common law marriage in England and Wales?
Many people assume there is a ‘common law marriage’ rule, which is where laws exist for cohabiting couples in which they are considered married. However, in England and Wales, we do not have this framework. This means unmarried couples have fewer legal rights, including those covered by divorce law. However, you may draw up a cohabitation agreement when you decide to live together.
What is a living together or cohabitation agreement?
Cohabitation or living together agreements are legal documents between unmarried couples who buy a property together. Agreements will outline financial arrangements, such as what you would like to happen if you separate or one of your dies. It can also include the intended contributions for financial elements like bills and mortgages. This document can be beneficial if you split up, covering areas such as property, investments, savings and pensions, clearly setting out the intentions of both parties.
What are cohabiting partners entitled to?
While cohabiting partners do not have the same protection or status in law as married couples, there may still be decisions to make about property, pensions and children. Each case is different, which is why it is so important to have the right legal support on board. For example, the property you both live in may be owned by one party, leaving the other with no automatic right to an equity share. However, you may have a legal argument that you have made regular mortgage contributions and there was an intention to have shared ownership.
What parental rights do unmarried couples have?
Even if you are unmarried, you still have the same parental rights as those who are. Financial responsibilities towards children remain, even after a relationship breakdown or divorce. The law is designed to protect children, so the courts will always put their welfare first if you cannot agree on matters to do with them, such as living and contact arrangements.
Should you get legal advice before moving in together?
Getting legal advice before living together can give couples reassurance and clarity about any legal implications if the relationship breaks down, offering solutions for long-term issues. Family law services can also draft a cohabitation agreement for greater legal protection.
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