According to the Office for National Statistics, the number of couples cohabiting in the UK is growing faster than the number of couples who are choosing to marry.
However, how many cohabiting couples know their legal rights and entitlements?
There is a widely held misconception that when a couple lives together, they are classed as ‘Common Law’ partners and therefore hold the same legal rights as if they were married or civil partners.
This is not, in fact, the case.
Benefits such as automatic pension rights, automatic rights to assets and inheritance rights (under the law of intestacy rules) are only afforded to those who choose to enter into a marriage or civil partnership.
Whilst cohabiting couples will not receive these same automatic benefits, it is possible for couples to formally outline their wishes, by way of a cohabitation agreement.
A cohabitation agreement outlines which assets are owned by whom in the relationship, whether jointly or solely. It also provides the opportunity to document how the parties agree these assets should be distributed in the event of a relationship breakdown. The agreement can also specify arrangements regarding the maintenance of children, joint finances, property, pets and other significant assets.
It is, however, important to note that a cohabitation agreement does not hold any influence over the intestacy rules, which come into effect should a person die without making a will. It is therefore vital that should a member of a cohabiting couple wish for their partner to inherit on their death that a Will is made outlining these wishes.
Whilst many couples may not wish to consider a time when they are no longer together, setting out arrangements now can prevent arguments and potentially costly legal battles at a later stage, particularly where children are involved.
Don’t let the sadness and upheaval of a breakup be made even more difficult because of fights over property, possessions, children or pets.
Plan things in the early stages of the relationship – while you are clear-headed and focused.
If you would like to discuss cohabitation or other family matters with our specialist Family Solicitors, please contact the team on 0161 615 5554, by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by visiting our Altrincham office.