Cohabitation couples on the increase – again!

Statistics released from the Office for National Statistics on 05 November 2015 show that the cohabiting couple family continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK in 2015, reaching 3.2 million. Whilst the most common family type in 2015 remains the married or civil partner couple family with or without dependant children at 12.5 million.

Despite the myths of “common law marriage” unlike marriage, there are no statutory provisions regulating financial provisions for cohabitees on separation and this can leave one party, who has given up work to raise the children of the partnership, vulnerable on separation. At Thursfields we have seen all this before.

Whilst financial provision for the children is covered by statute there are no similar provisions for the dependant co-habitee who may find themselves homeless should the relationship break down. There is also a risk of lengthy and costly litigation to determine shares in property which is either co-owned or solely owned by one party which the other may have made financial or domestic contributions towards.

Co-habitation Agreement

A co-habitation agreement can record the parties’ intentions at the outset of living together, or it can be prepared once co-habitation has commenced. At Thursfields we are able to do this for you. The agreement can record the rights and responsibilities each party has in relation to the property they live in and the financial arrangements during the relationship and upon breakdown such as how the mortgage and utility bills are to be paid and any financial support upon separation.  Items such as cars, antiques, jewellery and furniture can be listed in the agreement and how they are to be dealt with on separation recorded.  The agreement can state who is to remain living in the home, whether it is to be sold, and if so how the proceeds of sale are to be divided. We have expert Lawyers who are able to draft these agreements.

The benefits of a co-habitation agreement are that it can provide a degree of security for the more vulnerable partner and avoid the acrimony, cost and uncertainty when the relationship breaks down. Whilst there are reservations about the enforceability of co-habitation agreements, they are governed by the ordinary rules of contract. This means that they must be set up correctly so that there is no challenge at a later date that they were set up fraudulently, or that one party was under duress or that there was undue influence or illegality on any other grounds.  We at Thursfields are able to ensure that they are set up correctly.

If you are looking to move in with your partner or considering buying a property together or would like any further advice on Co-habitation agreements, please contact Jane Chandler from the family team on 01905 730461

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