National Cohabitation Week: An Expert's Guide to the Law

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National Cohabitation Week legal advice

The results of a poll commissioned to mark Cohabitation Awareness Week are being reported in the press-and they make interesting reading!

Speaking to 2,000 adults, the poll found that nearly two in five British adults (37 per cent) wrongly think that unmarried couples who have lived together for more than two years are classified as having what is known as a 'common law marriage.’

Just over a quarter of Britons (27 per cent) wrongly believe that an unmarried couple would have the same rights as a married couple if they separated, as long as they have lived together for two or more years.  The legal reality is very different to this!

In previous articles, we have looked at the myth of the common law marriage, and how a misguided belief in this convention can lead couples into a false sense of security. Legally speaking, no protection is offered to a couple purely by virtue of the fact that they have lived together for a substantial length of time.

So, what can unmarried couples do to protect themselves?

The answer is to take all available steps at the outset and when the decision is made to live with your partner so that you are financially protected and  not disadvantaged if your relationship later sadly ends.  Frequently this will involve the preparation of a Cohabitation/Living Together Agreement.

A Cohabitation/Living Together Agreement is a bespoke legal document that would be individual to you.  It aims to formally record both parties intentions and wishes for the relationship at the outset and details how financial matters would be divided in the event of separation.

If you jointly own a property but have not purchased the property equally nor intend to contribute equally to the property post acquisition, , it is wise to also enter into a Declaration of Trust. This sets out exactly how the proceeds of any sale would be dealt with and can be used to reflect where unequal contributions have or are to be made to a property.

Last but by certainly no means least, a Will is also always of crucial importance for unmarried couples. If one party dies without leaving a Will, their cohabiting partner is not automatically entitled to a share of the estate.

Until the law changes to reflect the fact that some couples simply don’t wish to get married, cohabiting couples need to do all they can to secure legal protection. Contact Ison Harrison today to find out how we can help.

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