Living together agreement: cohabitation and your rights
PUBLISHED: 11:07 16 March 2017 | UPDATED: 16:38 16 March 2017
Debenhams Ottaway explains how you can get the best from cohabitation confusion
As a family lawyer, I have often had to break the news to clients that they do not have the ability to claim any financial support against their ex-partner, even if they have been living together for years.
It is a common misconception that living together will give rise to the same rights on separation as they would on divorce. This is not the case and the difference in outcomes can be huge. Marriage gives a couple the potential to make a claim against all of each other’s assets, including each other’s properties. However, there are no such rights for unmarried couples and they can only obtain a share of their partner’s property if there is a written agreement, such as a declaration of trust or living together agreement, allowing them to do so or they can prove they made a contribution to it, which is often difficult to do.
The law in this area is changing on a regular basis and so disputes can take a long time and be very expensive. This could all be avoided with a living together agreement. It sets out who owns what and in what proportion and lets you document how you will split your property, contents, personal belongings, savings and other assets, should the relationship break down. It can also cover how you will support your children, over and above any legal requirements to maintain them, as well as how you would deal with bank accounts, debts, and joint purchases such as a car.
The agreement can also be used to set out how you and your partner will manage your day-to-day finances while you live together, such as how much each contributes to rent or mortgage and bills, and whether you will take out life insurance on each other.
Once the couples agree on who owns what, how their assets should be divided in the event of a split and what they want from the agreement, one partner instructs their lawyer to get the agreement properly drawn up and a copy is sent to the other partner, who ideally should get their own lawyer to go through it. Once both parties are satisfied with the agreement, the document is signed and witnessed.
A living together agreement lets you agree things in a fair way at the outset without the pressures that can arise if a relationship breaks down. If you would like further information in relation to living together agreements or family law generally, please contact one of our family lawyers at Debenhams Ottaway.
Natalie Lester, Family Solicitor
T: 01727 735612