Recent studies have shown that the cohabiting couple in the fastest growing family type in the UK having more than doubled over the past ten years and is now the second largest family type in the UK. Many couples now choose to cohabit rather than marry or cohabit before marriage or civil partnership.
These statistics highlight the need for cohabiting couples to be aware of their legal rights and if necessary take steps to protect these. Cohabiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples especially when it comes to property ownership, pension rights and maintenance payments.
According to the British Social Attitudes survey 51% of those surveyed believe that cohabiting couples are protected by common law marriage. Yet under current cohabitation law it is possible for a couple to live with someone for decades and have children together and then be offered little or no protection by the law when they separate.
The difference in legal rights between cohabiting and married couples may only really be felt during the breakdown of a relationship, but it is important for all cohabitees to think ahead and make sure that they are not left financially vulnerable in the event of a future separation.
If you are cohabiting or planning to cohabit there are steps which you can take:
- Knowing your rights and seeking legal advice: the law is not designed for cohabitation, don't make assumptions about how things would unfold
- Drawing up an agreement with your partner, it is advisable for such an agreement to be drawn up before you cohabit, but it can be drawn up at any time after you have been living together
- Both of you seeking advice on life insurance and making a will
- Spreading the word to other people who you know in this situation so they can protect themselves
TV Edwards is supporting Resolution's Cohabitation Awareness Week from 27th November to 1st December. The initiative is designed to help improve knowledge and information amongst the public at large so that cohabitees are better aware of what the law provides for them and what they can do to get more security. Our Family Finance team has accredited family law specialists with many years of experience advising cohabitees on separation including relating to finances and children. If you would like advice about cohabitation please contact us on 020 3440 8000 or by email to Charlotte.Kay@tvedwards.com