There has been much debate about the unfair property laws that affect separating unmarried couples in the UK.
Not withstanding a call for reform from lead bodies and Judges that work within the family law sector, the Government has resisted implementing proposed changes that would make the system fairer for separating cohabitees.
Cohabitation or Living Together Agreements are becoming increasingly popular in the UK as a result of the injustice that the current laws are causing.
It is a well known fact that marriage rates are falling and people are choosing to live together instead. However, as the law stands now, there is very little legal protection for cohabitees who suffer a relationship breakup and need to resolve disputes that may have arisen in respect of property and/or children.
You will often hear the term “common law husband and wife.” It is a mistake to think that if you live with someone for a period of time you acquire the same rights as a husband and wife. This is not true. Cohabitees cannot rely on the Family Court to determine an appropriate financial settlement for them as Divorcees can. The law relating to unmarried couples and property rights is very complex and can lead to harsh outcomes because the Judge’s hands are tied by the existing laws. Please read related article below.
For this reason, more people are turning to Cohabitation Agreements to record the financial arrangements that are to apply in respect of their cohabitation and what should happen in the event that the relationship fails. Living Together Agreements are contracts that can include provisions dealing with income, property, children, wills and legacies, ownership of chattels and many other matters that may be relevant to you and your partner.
It is in your best interest to take legal advice on having a Cohabitation Agreement drawn up. With out a doubt, this will save you and your partner a lot of heart ache and costs of litigation in the event that your relationship comes to an end.
Also, if you are buying a property together than consider having a declaration of trust drawn up or making it clear on your purchase documents how you both intend to hold the beneficial interest (capital) in the property. The Land Registry has devised a new Form JO to make it simpler for cohabiting couples to declare their intentions. For more information, see the Land Registry’s public guide to joint ownership here.
If you are contemplating separation from your partner or you have already separated, I would suggest that you consider in the first instance, the services of a family mediator to reach your own informed agreements about property, finance and/or children.
Family Mediation (in suitable cases) will prove to be a less stressful option to resolving your disputes and will limit both the financial and emotional costs of your break up.
- Property laws for cohabiting couples ‘unfair’, judge says (telegraph.co.uk)