Marriage not on the Cards? Here’s How to Protect Yourself with a Cohabitation Agreement
The total number of cohabiting couples in the UK increased by a massive 144% between 1996 to 2021, from around 1.5 million to around 3.6 million. Trends do differ between opposite-sex and same-sex cohabiting couples, but in 2021, 22% of couples who lived together were cohabiting rather than married or in a civil partnership.
Although there have been suggestions that the law may change with regard to unmarried partners and their rights to inherit after each other’s death, this has not yet been implemented. So, if marriage isn’t on the cards for you and your partner, how can you protect yourself?
Put simply, a Cohabitation Agreement is a legal agreement that regulates the terms of you and your partner’s relationship, setting out what would happen to your assets, finances, and family if you were to separate. Of course, no one goes into sharing a home with someone consciously thinking it might end, but it’s definitely worth thinking about possible future scenarios, no matter how unlikely they may seem. For example, without an Agreement, one party to the relationship could be left with nothing in the event of a separation because sadly, the rights given to cohabitees remain substantially limited, especially in relation to matters involving children or property.
A Cohabitation Agreement may also be useful when a couple chooses to buy a home together, for example. It can be really useful to decide in advance who will pay certain bills or debts, or when drawing up what proportion of share in the property each person will hold.
What about ‘Common Law Marriage?’
Despite the common misconception, there is no such thing as a ‘common-law’ wife or husband; unmarried couples do not actually have any legal rights at all, regardless of how long they have been together. As the law currently stands in the UK, unmarried couples do not have the same rights as married couples. This includes an absence of maintenance rights, rights to their partner’s pension, and automatic inheritance; unless, of course, you have made a will.
As the law stands in England and Wales, there’s also no actual legal definition of a cohabitee. This means that the persons involved are still considered individuals in the eyes of the law, despite sharing a home.
Protecting your Future
If you are cohabiting, or thinking of cohabiting, and do not have such an agreement in place, it may be time to seek advice on how to protect yourself in the event of a separation. A Cohabitation Agreement will offer you the legal protection you would need should the worst happen, and can save an awful lot of time, money, and stress, in the long term. As a Cohabitation Agreement is essentially a legal document, it is advisable to have it drawn up by a solicitor.
If marriage is not on the cards for you and your partner, but you wish to protect yourself legally, we can help. Book in for a free consultation or call the office today on 01246 555 610 and we’ll explain everything you need to know about drafting a Cohabitation Agreement.
By Vines Legal on 29 Dec 2022, 11:57 AM