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Legal advice for cohabitees

More and more people now choose to show their commitment to their loved one through living together rather than having a “traditional” wedding ceremony.

If you’ve lived with your partner for several years, bought a house together, had children together and contributed equally to the family income, it is often thought that should you one day split up, the law will give you the same status as a married couple.

Unfortunately, this is not the case. There is no legal recognition of being a “common law” husband or wife.

So what happens in the event that the relationship breaks down?
If the relationship ends, very different rules apply for a couple who are married and those who are not.

When a married couple divorce, a Court can share out assets and order maintenance in the way it considers fair. This is not the case for unmarried couples, and the entitlement on the breakdown of the relationship or death could be very different from what was expected.

For example, you may have lived with your partner for many years but this will not entitle you to maintenance or an even share in the house in which you live.

There are also significant differences with regard to rights of inheritance, exemptions from inheritance tax and pensions.

A couple living together need to think carefully about what they intend and expect in a number of important areas, including property and financial support, their children, pensions and inheritance.

Is there anything you can do?
You should give careful thought as to what rights and obligations are expected from the relationship from the outset.

If you intend that you should both have an equal share in your house should you split, you will need to get a solicitor to draw up a Trust Deed.

A good solicitor can also discuss with you the merits of a Cohabitation Agreement. While these are not always enforceable, they can help couples think about what is to happen if their relationship ends and can set down common intentions, particularly with regard to financial and property matters.

Another important consideration for unmarried couples is to make Wills to ensure that on death their wishes are taken into account. If no Will is in force, the rules that apply are unlikely to achieve what was intended.

What about same sex partnerships?
The law relating to cohabitation both for same sex and different sex couples is complex; you should seek legal guidance, preferably, at the time you enter into the relationship to avoid the complications that can arise if things don’t work out.

Unmarried Couples and Cohabitation

The family law solicitors at McGale Kelly can provide you with expert legal advice if you live with your partner without being married or in a civil partnership. Cohabitation rights are much more patchy and complex than many people think, so it’s vital you seek assistance to ensure you are protected in the event you separate or if your partner dies.

To speak to a lawyer about your rights and obligations relating to property and maintenance, get in touch today.

For further information please give us a call on 028 8224 3621 or email: info@mcgalekelly.co.uk


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