Purchasing property and holding a wedding reception can both be costly affairs. It’s no surprise, therefore, that many couples are choosing to hold off on marriage until finances allow. As a result, an increasing amount of couples are cohabiting first, living together before sealing the deal. Whether it’s an economical or emotional decision, it’s a sensible choice for those who aren’t ready for marriage or fear the fallout of divorce. However, if your relationship breaks down during this time, understanding your legal position in advance and making arrangements can benefit you in the long term.
Your Questions Answered
Why choose the cohabitation solicitors at Crisp & Co?
At Crisp & Co, we pride ourselves on our ability to get clients from A to B with minimal fuss. Understanding your legal rights during cohabitation is vital from the moment you move in. That’s why our specialist cohabitation solicitors will always keep you informed about your options, not only prior to moving in, but at any point during cohabitation. We’ll be there when you need us, for practical advice that’s tailored to your needs. When it comes to couples and cohabitation, we know our stuff. With our focus solely on family law, couples from all walks of life trust Crisp & Co to explain everything with clarity and be there to answer any questions you have along the way.
How can Crisp & Co assist me with the legal aspects of cohabitation?
Cohabitation can be a sensible option. Whether you’re buying or renting a property, the prospect of moving in together can be exciting. But, if things get rocky, you’ll need a legal safety net to fall back on. That’s where Crisp & Co come in. Prior to moving in, we’ll help you and your partner create a cohabitation agreement that’s legally binding and leaves no stone unturned. Our experience in this field allows us to be thorough, ensuring that every requirement from both parties has been met. While this document can be particularly beneficial as a defence against disputes, our cohabitation solicitors know that sometimes disagreements are inevitable. Luckily, our team are fully qualified in all forms of Alternative Dispute Resolution. With skilful negotiation, we can help find swift resolve for any disputes that arise during cohabitation.
What is cohabitation and what does it mean?
Cohabitation is the term used to describe an unmarried couple who live together, either in a rented property or a purchased one. Couples choose to cohabit for a number of reasons – some economic, some personal. Ultimately, cohabitation comes with advantages and disadvantages just like marriage. Increasingly, couples are choosing to cohabit prior to marriage to test whether or not both parties are compatible as a couple when living under the same roof and sharing responsibilities. However, before moving in together, it’s imperative that you and your partner are clear on a number of legal issues to avoid disputes arising in the future. While it may not be the conversation you want to have with your partner, it’s vital in safeguarding your assets and protecting your interests.
The myths surrounding "Common Law Marriage"
While it is untrue, many couples believe that if they have been cohabiting for a number of years but remain unmarried, the law still recognises them as a married couple and they have the same rights. This is known as Common Law Marriage, and while it might benefit certain couples, it is completely fictional. In fact, in the eyes of the law, an unmarried couple is seen as just that: therefore, there is no automatic right to home ownership or assets should the couple separate or one party pass away, regardless of how long they have been cohabiting.This is another reason why cohabitation agreements are a vital part of moving in together.
What rights do cohabitants have?
While unmarried cohabiting couples do not share the same rights as a married couple, both still have certain rights and responsibilities.
- Property - Where the property is rented, only the tenant named in the tenancy agreement is entitled to live there. If your partner is not included on the agreement, consent must be sought from the landlord if they wish to share the rented property with you. Similarly, if the property has been purchased under only one partners name, they have the right to sell the property without consulting the other, unless the other partner can prove that they have an interest in the property or the partner has applied to the court for the right to live there due to their children’s welfare. Therefore, when purchasing property as an unmarried couple, you should consider buying as joint tenants or tenants in common to have access to the same legal rights regarding your property.
- Possessions & Finances - Unlike a married couple, cohabiting couples have no legal duty to support each other financially. Furthermore, since you are unmarried, your assets and income remain solely yours unless stated otherwise, and do not become matrimonial property such as that of a married couple. However, where both parties are liable for debt that has not been repaid, you could still be pursued if your partner is failing to pay their share. Where benefits are concerned, your household income will be assessed as a whole rather than your individual earnings, meaning there could be a reduction in the amount you can claim.
- Children - When it comes to children and cohabiting couples, it’s vital for both parties to know exactly how the responsibility is being shared. If unmarried, the mother automatically has full parental responsibility. Her partner can only have parental responsibility if he is named as the father on the birth certificate, has signed a written Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother, obtains a parental responsibility order from the courts or the couple get married. In order to minimise disputes regarding childcare, we recommend entering into a cohabitation agreement with your partner prior to moving in, to ensure that your partner is aware of their legal position in regards to the children.
Buying property when cohabiting
When purchasing property as an unmarried couple, you have two options: to purchase as joint tenants, or to purchase as tenants in common.
When purchasing a property as Joint Tenants, you’ll jointly own the property and therefore have equal legal rights to it. In the eyes of the law, both you and your partner must act as a single owner. When you jointly own a property, you cannot be forced to leave without a court order and the property can not be sold without your written consent.
Tenants in Common
As Tenants in Common, both parties have a share in the property. Both can sell this share should they want to move out, and should you die the share would pass on to the person specified in your Will as opposed to automatically being transferred to the other owner.
If you aren’t sure which one suits your needs as a couple, speak to our specialist cohabitation solicitors for guidance and advice.
Separating when you have been cohabiting
Should the relationship between you and your partner break down during cohabitation, your first step should be to seek sound legal advice as early as possible. While the separation itself may not seem as daunting as a divorce, there are still crucial matters to resolve before parting ways. For this reason, we urge unmarried clients who are living together to draft a cohabitation agreement. This agreement should detail all the responsibilities of both parties as well as determining exactly what your legal position is regarding finances, children and property in the eventuality of a split.
Considering cohabitation? Consider Crisp & Co. With specialist knowledge in the field of relationships and living together, we can deliver expert advice and assist you to draft an agreement that sets your decisions in stone. Get in touch with us today on 0203 857 9885.