What is Cohabitation?
Cohabitation simply means to share the same habitat or home as someone without being married. A lot more common than it used to be, many couples now live together for financial reasons but don’t wish to or can’t afford to marry. The definition of cohabitation can extend to anyone living together, including groups of friends.
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Legal Rights of Cohabiting Couples
It may be surprising, but there is actually no such thing as a ‘common law’ wife or husband. Even if you’ve been living with a partner for years and are, to all intents and purposes, as good as married, you have no legal rights to anything your partner leaves behind if something happens to them. This includes the home you live in and any of their finances.
What do I need to think about when I live with someone?
If you are renting a property and your relationship breaks down, it’s usually a simple matter of ending the contract on the house/flat and going your separate ways. However, it is not as simple you own as house together, as disputes may arise over who would live in the property when the relationship has ended. If you have used a joint income to purchase the property and have a joint mortgage, arguments about who is entitled to the property can become heated. We’re here to help in this situation.
If you have children, you will need to think about 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?
If you have bought a number of expensive household items during your time together, it’s likely you split the payment. 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 has no guarantee of success.
What can I do to protect myself and my partner?
Considering a co-habitation agreement is one of the best ways of taking steps to protect you and your partner if you separate. A co-habitation agreement is an inexpensive document stating 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 divide 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 expensive household items, and 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, and in advance of it being required. It’ll allow you to make sure you both agree on what to enter into the document – thereby preventing arguments, claims and traumatic disputes further down the line.
One huge advantage of ascertaining the rights of partners living together and signing a Co-Habitation agreement is that you’ll know exactly where you stand should your relationship end. You may never need it, but signing an agreement will provide peace of mind and allow you to live together happily without worrying about things going wrong in the future.
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View our Cohabitation FAQs
View our article on what cohabitation is and why should I have a cohabitation agreement?