Cohabitants should take precautions

Year Published: 2011

According to Law Society President John Wotton “the law that currently exists for cohabitants is disjointed and grossly inadequate.”

Figures released by the Office for National Statistics showed that between 2001 and 2010 the number of opposite sex cohabiting couple families in the UK grew from 2.1m to 2.8m. Of these, 39% have dependent children.

In Scotland the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 gives rights to unmarried couples if their relationship breaks down. They are not exactly the same rights that divorcing couples have but are a ‘married rights lite’ version so to speak.

South of the border in England and Wales the hope was that the government would take on board The Law Commission’s recommendations and introduce legislation here as well to give cohabiting couples similar rights to married couples.

Justice Minister Jonathan Djanogly has since stated that the findings of research into the Scottish legislation do not provide a sufficient basis for a change in the law – so it seems the status quo will remain for the foreseeable future.

But all this doesn’t mean that cohabiting couples will be left out in the cold. There are actions which can be taken to achieve security and stability – by agreeing and creating a cohabitation agreement.

Cohabitation agreements are already recognised in England and Wales as being legally binding. They can be drafted to cover all eventualities including how you will deal with property that you already own, how you’ll share property that you acquire during your relationship, what you’ll do in relation to bank accounts, debts and any credit agreements, right down to a policy on pets and smoking!

Very importantly, provisions can also be included concerning arrangements for children should you separate.

In the excitement of creating a new life together it’s easy to believe that all will be well for evermore. The fact is, that many couples start living together when one, or other already has significant assets. Consequently contributions to the new relationship are usually far from equal. The sensible course is to reflect the shares in an agreement.

If you are unmarried, it really is simple to make an appointment with a solicitor, discuss your needs and draft a cohabitation agreement covering all eventualities. You will get the protection of an agreement behind you and live more contentedly knowing that you’ve taken all the necessary precautions.

If you require further information please contact a member of our Family team on 01625 442100.

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