What is Cohabitation?

Cohabitation is where you live with someone, but are not married, Cohabitation simply means to share the same habitat or home as someone. This arrangement has become more common in recent years, as people aren't able to live alone for financial reasons, don't wish, or can't afford, to marry the person they live with.

The definition of cohabitation extends to anyone living together, including a group of friends or a couple.

We've been living together for years...

It may surprise you to know that there is no such thing as a 'common law' wife or husband. In other words, even if you've been living with a partner for years and are, for all intents and purposes, as good as married, if something happens to one partner you have no legal rights to anything they leave behind, including finances or the home you share.

What do I need to think about when I live with someone?

The house/flat

If you are renting a property, and your relationship breaks down, usually it's a simple matter of ending the contract on the house/flat and going your separate ways. However, it is not this simple if you own a property together. If you do, you may have disputes over who should live in the property when the relationship has ended. You may have used a joint income to purchase the property and have a joint mortgage, and arguments about who is entitled to the property can become heated in the event of a relationship breakdown.

Children

If you have children, you will need to think about who will look after them and where they will live in the event of a relationship breakdown. Who will look after them on a day-to-day basis? How often will the other person see them, and where? How much will the other person pay in maintenance?

Shared Items

You may have accumulated expensive goods during your time together, and it's likely you split the payment half way. If you had no prior agreement as to who owned these goods if your relationship ends, this can cause disputes later on.

What happens to the other person if one person dies?

It's not something you want to think about, but if one partner dies you may not be entitled to receive anything unless you are married or have specifically stated in a Will that you would like your partner to inherit. You may be able to bring a claim against your partner's estate but that is likely to be expensive and with no guarantee of success.

What can I do to protect myself and my partner?

Consider a co-habitation agreement. This is an inexpensive document that states exactly what is to happen to all of the above if the relationship ends.

You can specify who will receive the house, or how it will divided up fairly for both partners if it is sold. You can decide on where any children will live and how often they will see the other person. You can decide who will receive which goods such as the washing machine, sofa etc. You can specify that, if anything happens to you, your partner receives everything you own or a portion of it.

A co-habitation agreement gives you the advantage of being able to decide these things fairly and rationally, making sure you both agree on what is being decided. It will prevent heated arguments and potentially lengthy and expensive disputes later down the line which can be emotionally draining for you and traumatic for any children involved. You and your partner will know exactly where you stand if the relationship ends and will allow you to live together without worrying about what will happen if things go wrong.

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