If you are one of the increasing number of people who have decided that marriage is not for you and you wish to simply live together without any of the formalities, beware!
In a very recent case, a female cohabitee, Mrs Curran, has been “absolutely stripped of everything” when a 30 year relationship ended. The couple had never married and had a business and a property but all the assets were in the name of Mr Collins. As a result of this, and the present law of property, she was unable to persuade the court that she should benefit from the couples hard work in the business. The judge branded the law as “unfair” but was bound by it and could do nothing to help her.
As more and more couples are remaining unmarried, this situation is becoming more and more common and these injustices are likely to continue. Many people assume that after a certain period of time they become “common law husband and wife” but the reality is that there is no such thing. It can be extremely expensive to try to establish a claim against property, not to mention difficult to prove. The Government has no present intentions of changing the law to make matters fairer for cohabitee’s despite a number of studies and consultations recommending change, the latest one a Royal Commission report in 2007.
There are, however, ways to protect yourself if you do not wish to marry. One of these is to ensure that all property and business dealings are joint. Another is to agree and sign a “Cohabitation Contract” which is legally binding and can be enforced. It is important that these are very carefully drafted to reflect exactly what is agreed now and in the future and that they are updated periodically. Specialist legal advice is needed to ensure that the agreements are valid and you may also require advice in relation to any businesses.
For more information on this or similar issues, please contact a member of our Family team on 01625 442100.