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Cohabiting Couples in the UK

Cohabiting couples unfortunately and frequently fail to think about their living arrangements if they separated. In this regard, both sides might profit from a Cohabitation Agreement.

Cohabitation is a growing trend of “family type” in the United Kingdom, with the number of people living together more than doubling from 1.5 million in the mid-1990s to 3.3 million in 2019.

Couples considering cohabitation, however, should also face the potential unpleasant reality of separation.

Many people who are in the midst of a new relationship prefer not to consider the potential that it may all go awry later down the line.

Your excitement about your new partner coming into your house to share your life is understandable, and many couples do actually live together blissfully without bothering to go through the expense and trouble of being married.

However, whereas married couples and civil partners enjoy significant protection in the event of a breakup, none of these rights extend to cohabiting couples. Since 1753, no rights have been linked to marriages under “common law.”

Property disputes

When a coexisting pair breaks up, ownership of the house and the value invested in it is likely to be the major source of dispute including homes succumb to negative equity. As the number of cohabiting families grows, it is expected that these disagreements will become more common.

A common living arrangement is for someone who already owns a home to allow their new partner to move in.

Cohabiting couples - housing

In such situations, maybe, it is a surprise that the non-owning spouse may still claim a stake in the property if the relationship comes to an end. The most prevalent is that a “beneficial interest” in the residence is established.

A signed written document showing that the non-owning spouse has a right to a share in the property might best establish this.

A particularly well-organised pair may create such a document during their initial periods of cohabitation, although most do not get round to doing this.

Partners claiming a share

Even without any supporting documentation, a claim can still be filed. If, for example, the non-owning partner made considerable financial contributions to the home and it can be demonstrated that there was a ‘joint intention’ that this may lead to an interest in the property, it could represent the necessary benefit.

The level of this interest may be proportionate to the money invested or may be totally different. It will be left to the courts to judge, based on various factors, what the joint intention was between the couple.

It is not straightforward to prove a joint intention without a formally produced agreement, but this might be done if the couple addressed the subject explicitly and it can be demonstrated that the non-owner believed they had a guaranteed interest and had contributed financially or otherwise to their home on that assumption.

Cohabitation Agreement

A Cohabitation Agreement offers a convenient means of protecting a couple against costly and unpleasant conflicts following the dissolution of a relationship.

This may be of use to either side as it identifies who is entitled to what and will remove a lot of the strife and uncertainty which frequently accompany splits at the conclusion of a cohabiting partnership.

Moreover, during cohabitation, it may be identified what each person contributes. They can determine who pays what for home expenses and even the exact behaviours or actions which would end the partnership.

Such an arrangement may appear to be a passion killer to some. Indeed, it won’t be for everyone, but a cohabitation agreement might provide cohabiting couples with crucial protection that they would otherwise be missing.

Self-drafting of the agreement

Nearly every couple will discuss how they will share household costs before moving in together, and this is the perfect moment to discuss setting up a Cohabitation Agreement. These agreements are becoming far more common and don’t carry the negative connotations that they perhaps once did.

Consider it similar to life insurance. It is not something you would like to use, but it provides both parties with vital protection in the event that the worst should occur.

But don’t be persuaded to draught up the agreement on your own without professional guidance. This could be a big mistake. It must be enforceable in court, which means it should be prepared by a legal practitioner, with both parties seeking independent legal counsel if feasible.

A basic Cohabitation Agreement usually costs around £1,000, but for couples with especially complicated financial arrangements, it might be more costly due to the extra work involved in detailing the particulars.

No Cohabitation Agreement in place

A break-up can be a painful shock to the system if there is no Cohabitation Agreement to protect your rights.

On obtaining legal advice after the breakup of their relationship, a mother of two children who lived with her partner for more than a decade was dismayed to learn that she had no legal stake in the family home.

In her situation, she lacked protection because the home was bought in her partner’s name, and she had not made any payments toward the mortgage.

Even if she successfully petitioned the court to remain in the family home for the benefit of their children, she would be required to vacate the property when the child becomes of adult legal age.

The benefits of Cohabitation Agreements are clear to see and can help protect the rights and responsibilities of both parties, as well give peace of mind.


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