You’re part of a couple, but you’re not married, and you have made the decision to move in together. Quite exciting, isn’t it? Numbers show you are definitely not the only one. According to the latest data, the cohabiting couple family continues to be the fastest growing family type in the UK in 2015, with an altogether increase of 29.7% since 2005! However, don’t let the elation get the best of you. Before you start packing your bags and calling the moving company, it is crucial that you understand the legal foundation for a happy and lasting cohabitation with your partner.
As great as cohabitation is, the English law does not recognise the status of a common-law spouse or partner. This is why legally unregulated cohabitation can leave you with little guarantee and safety should the relationship break down, or if anything goes wrong down the line.
What Is A Cohabitation Agreement?
Basically, a cohabitation agreement is a document that helps couples who are living together avoid the unnecessary cost of court settlements and litigations should they split up in the future. A cohabitation agreement stipulates the rights and obligations of each partner towards one another, and allows them to arrange for a variety of legal matters, such as child care, property rights, mutual financial support, debt management, etc.
Why Sign One?
The importance and value of a cohabitation agreement is perhaps best summarised by Graeme Fraser, the spokesman for the family law organisation called Resolution:
“Under current cohabitation law it’s possible to live with someone for decades and even have children together and then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner when the relationship breaks down. This can have a huge impact on women and children, particularly in cases where a mother has given up or reduced her work to raise a family.”
For instance, even if you have both been living in your home, but only one of you legally owns it, it is possible that the partner who owns the home might not be obligated to share it with you, even if you have financially contributed to the home – unless explicitly stated so.
“Any attempt to claim part of the property in such a case is fraught with difficulties, because what you have is a situation where there is no law. All the courts can do is try to bring fairness using cobbled-together bits of other legislation on property, land and trust law but it is legally and technically complex. Therefore, it can cost an enormous amount of money to fight it out in court.”, explains Christina Blacklaws, director of family law at Cooperative Legal Services for The Guardian.
Final Words: Cohabitation Agreement
Bottom line is that right now, a cohabitation agreement is the best legal tool available to make sure your interests are covered no matter what happens. It would be wise of you to sign one.
On a similar note, if you are thinking of tying the knot after all, here is why you should consider signing a prenuptial agreement.
If you’ve got any legal questions about a cohabitation agreement then get in touch with us today for a free quote from a range of qualified lawyers.