It’s a common myth that when people live together for a long time they have a common law marriage. Unfortunately this is not the case, and unlike Divorce or Civil Partnership Dissolution, there aren’t any rules that apply to separating couples in England or Wales.
Living with your partner for a certain amount of time does not mean that you will be entitled to some financial support, or a share in any property that he/she owns, after you split up.
There have been discussions over a number of years about changing the law, due to the increasing numbers of couples who live together, rather than marry or form a Civil Partnership. Even though these discussions have taken place, no change in the law has taken place as yet, and people who live together (co-habit) can sometimes be left in a difficult financial position after they separate. Any disputes over property can be expensive and take a long time to conclude, due to the complexity of the law that must be used.
However, there is a way in which you can protect yourself and your finances if you live with your partner, or intend to do so.
It is advisable to get a Cohabitation Agreement if you are considering moving in with your partner, or if you are currently living together – even if you have lived together for a number of years.
The Cohabitation Agreement would detail the financial arrangements when you do live together and what would happen to your finances in the event that you did decide to separate. Entering into such an agreement means that unmarried couples have an opportunity to discuss and be open about their finances, and it can help to reduce disputes following separation.
Cohabitation Agreements can look at shared property, who is responsible for paying the bills, pensions, personal possessions, as well as arrangements for children. This is not an exhaustive list, and the agreement itself can be tailored to suit your own set of circumstances.
It’s possible that in the future the law may change and provide people living together (cohabitees) with specific rights. If this does happen, then your Cohabitation Agreement should be reconsidered in light of these changes.
Other Agreements or Legal Options
If you have already separated then it would be advisable to enter into a Separation Agreement. Once again this agreement can help to limit any arguments that may arise after separation. The Separation Agreement can detail what will happen to property, finances, and even the arrangements for any children.
Unfortunately, in some cases matters will not be decided by agreement, and in these circumstances we would advise that you seek advice from a Family Law Solicitor as toyour options.
It may be that you have financial matters that need to be resolved, especially when there are children involved. There are specialist applications that would need to be made to a Court in these circumstances, and legal advice is required.