Co-habitation – Your Rights Explained

The most popular day to get married in England and Wales is 18th August. Resolution, the family law body, are using this occasion to shine a spotlight on common law marriage and raise awareness of the risks facing those in this kind of relationship.

With the number of cohabiting couple families on the rise, Partner Claire Jackson, seeks to bust the myth of Common Law marriage and offers advice to couples thinking of moving in together.

Cohabiting, or living together as a couple, does not give you or your partner the same rights as being married, or in a registered civil partnership, no matter how long you have been living together for. Common law marriage is a myth and can leave couples financially vulnerable on separation. It is therefore vital for you to consider the legal implications of cohabiting and protect yourself in the event that your relationship comes to an end.

Here are some answers to the most commonly asked questions about cohabitation.

Will I be able to get some of my partner’s pension if the relationship ends?

No.

Only if you and your former partner were married would you be able to make a claim for a share of their pension. If you are only cohabiting, then you are not eligible for any share of their pension.

Will I be able to apply for maintenance from my former partner if I am a stay at home parent?

No.

You are not entitled to any maintenance from your former partner to cover your role as a stay at home parent. You may only apply for maintenance if you and your partner were married.

Whilst your former partner will be required to provide maintenance for your children, this is to support their needs and not your own.

Will I be able to get half the value of the house?

No.

If your name is not on the title of the property, then generally you have no financial right to the home you shared.

There are however some exceptions to this where you may still have some rights to the property even if you do not own it. This can happen if:

  1. There is evidence of an agreement or common intention that you are entitled to a share of the home; and
  2. You have acted to your detriment in reliance on this agreement, for example, you contributed financially to the property by paying part of the mortgage.

It is important to note though that these options require legal action that can be very costly.  It is therefore vitally important to take action now to protect your interest in your home to avoid any unnecessary costs.

What can I do to protect my financial interests?

If you and your partner share a home, the best way to protect your interest in the property would be to alter the legal ownership of the home so that you and your partner own it in joint names.

As well as this, you can create a cohabitation agreement. This will set out clear guidelines as to what will happen to your finances if you decide to separate, minimising the risk of any future disputes. A cohabitation agreement can detail who owns what at the time of the agreement, the financial contributions you will each make whilst you are together, and how property and assets should be divided if you separate.

People who have made a cohabitation agreement often abide by it without the need for the courts to get involved. However, if there is a dispute, if the agreement has been properly drawn up, the terms of the agreement are reasonable, and each of you has obtained independent legal advice on its effect, a court is more likely to uphold the agreement.

Should you wish to speak to Claire regarding any of the issues raised in this article, she can be contacted on 01942 674 144 or cjackson@butcher-barlow.co.uk

an image of Claire Jackson, a Butcher & Barlow LLP employee

Claire Jackson