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Cohabitation and Unmarried Couples

Unmarried couples are the fastest growing type of family unit in the UK. More than 6 million couples in the UK cohabit, according to the Office for National Statistics this is more than double the number 20 years ago. However, cohabiting and unmarried couples are offered very little legal protection. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a common law marriage in English law.

We have experience in assisting unmarried couples. From family mediation to the drafting a cohabitation agreement. We are committed to helping people in a non-confrontational manner. We focus on resolving any disagreements through collaborative mediation. This allows unmarried couples to take control of how to manage their finances, children, relocation etc. and discover workable, long-term solutions.

Defining cohabitation

Often disputes concerning unmarried couples begin with a disagreement over whether the relationship is one of cohabitation. Legal definitions of what constitutes a relationship involving a cohabiting couple are spread across statute and common law.

Statutory definitions of cohabitation

Under paragraph 10C of Part 1 of Schedule 1 to the Child Support Act 1991, a ‘couple’ is “two people who are not married to, or civil partners of, each other but are living together as a married couple.” In another example, section 62 of the family law Act 1996 defines cohabitees as “two people who are not married to, or civil partners of, each other but are living together as husband and wife or as if they were civil partners.”

Common law definitions of cohabitation

In case law, judges will examine whether the following factors are present when assessing whether two people are living together as a couple:

• whether the couple are members of the same household and share daily life

• the intention and motivations of the parties

• how stable the relationship is

• do the couple pool together their finances or does one party financially support the other?

• is the relationship of a sexual nature?

• do the couple have children together or has one party taken on the responsibility for the children of the other party to the relationship?

• do friends and family acknowledge the parties are a couple?

Having a Cohabitation Agreement will protecting your rights

Nobody moves in with a person they love, expecting the relationship to end. Unfortunately, relationships can and do break down, and unmarried couples often find they have no right to the home they have been living in for years or their partner's pension.

We regularly see situations where a woman has stayed at home raising the family while her partner has worked. Often in these traditional family arrangements, it is the male partner’s name which is on the property title, car registration, and utilities. If the relationship breaks down, he can legally order his partner to leave the property and any other assets, leaving her effectively homeless. This can occur even if she has been making contributions to the mortgage, car payments, and other household bills.

Having a Cohabitation Agreement - provide the best evidence of what was intended by a couple as to how property and assets should be divided if the relationship breaks down. Our team of experts can help with mediation and to draft a cohabitation agreement which will set out who owns what and in what proportion and lets you document how you will split your property, its contents, personal belongings, savings and other assets should you separate. A cohabitation agreement 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.

Contact us for more information.