Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics shows an increase in the number of people cohabiting from 6.8% in 2002 to 9.5% in 2015. Cohabitation has now become an alternative to marriage, especially for the younger generation. There could be numerous reasons for people living together rather than being married perhaps the expense of the wedding, changes in society or concerns that once married your assets aren’t protected.
At the moment, the law provides very little security for cohabiting couples. Surely there has to be a reform? We often see clients who have been in a relationship for over 20 years and have considered themselves to be a “common law wife” or a “common law husband” and they are shocked to hear that they may end up leaving a long relationship with nothing. This is because the law doesn’t actually recognise that common law wives or husbands exist. Couples living together outside of marriage are classed as two separated individuals.
What can cohabiting couples do to protect their assets?
When it comes to protecting assets an unmarried couple can have a cohabitation agreement drafted. This can set out what is agreed now and what is agreed upon separation. It is also important that unmarried couples look at how their property is owned to ensure an even split if the relationship were to break down. As well as this, a Will should be written to make sure that each individual’s wishes are met if the inevitable happens.
A change in the law may be a long way off and although there are some avenues that can be pursued, nothing beats a ring on the finger!
For more information on cohabitation or drafting a cohabitation agreement, please contact our Family Law team on 0161 475 7676.
You can read more about the myth surrounding common law wives and common law husbands in our previous blog: Common Law Marriage: The Common Misconception.