One of the biggest misconceptions in family law is that there is such a thing as a common law husband or a common law wife.  No matter how long you live with your partner you do not acquire or accrue any rights.

If a couple are married then should they separate Divorce law determines what is a fair and reasonable distribution of the couple’s assets, income and pensions whether owned individually or jointly. The law has no power to make such orders in relation to unmarried couples and cannot change ownership of assets.  It may be possible to make an application to the court for a declaration of beneficial entitlement in a property but this can be costly and involve quite complex consideration of Trusts law.

Courts may need to examine the common intention of the parties, promises made and any money contributed to the joint home.  It may be possible for a parent to make a claim for a child they continue to look after but generally you will have to re-pay capital once the child is 18 or finishes education.

Even if you live with your partner for years you will not inherit their estate automatically unless a Will has been prepared nominating the partner as a beneficiary.

In January 2015 the office of national statistics reported that Cohabiting couple families grew by 29.7% between 2004 and 2014. This is the fastest growing type of family in the UK.

Drawing up a Cohabitation Agreement can protect your interests, provide certainty and should not harm your relationship if you approach it in the right way.  You should avoid looking at the agreement simply as a prediction that the relationship will at some point break down.  Instead, you can use the preparation of drawing up the agreement to work through some of the key issues and make some key decisions in your lives together.  If sensitively handled, this process can strengthen a relationship.

The agreement should include what rights each partner has in relation to the property you live in who owns any other assets and who is responsible for any debts.  It’s also common for the agreement to look at how you will meet expenses while you live together.  Where there are children, the agreement can and should also address this.

In some relationships, one partner has the majority of the income and/or assets.  If the cohabitation Agreement is designed solely to protect his or her financial position if they split up, the other partner may well resent it.  On the other hand, an agreement which provides for some degree of financial protection for the less wealthy partner can increase that partner’s sense of security and happiness within the relationship.

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