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 number 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.
For help with any legal issues related to cohabitation, contact our expert cohabitation solicitors now by calling 0203 857 9885 or use the contact form above to request a call back.
How Crisp & Co Solicitors can help you with Cohabitation Law
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.
Whatever your situation, we have the experience and legal expertise to help you choose the right options to protect your interest. We can help you with all aspects of cohabitation, giving you complete peace of mind about living together as an unmarried couple.
A cohabitation agreement (also sometimes known as a ‘living together agreement’) allows you to set out the rights and responsibilities of each partner with respect to a house you are sharing and any associated issues. They are particularly recommended if buying property together without getting married or entering a civil partnership.
Things a cohabitation agreement will typically cover include:
- What percentage of a jointly-owned property each partner owns
- How much each partner will contribute to the rent or mortgage
- How bills will be divided
- What happens to the property if the relationship ends e.g. will it be sold, or will one partner buy the other out?
Without a cohabitation agreement, a partner whose name is not on the title deeds will have no legal right to the property, even if they have lived there for years and contributed to the mortgage. If both partners’ names are on the title deed, the property will usually be automatically split 50:50 between the couple if they separate, even if one partner contributed significantly more to the deposit or mortgage payments.
A cohabitation agreement can be particularly important if you are not married or in a civil partnership and have children together as it provides certainty that the children will be taken care of if your relationship ends.
Buying property as an unmarried couple
When purchasing property as an unmarried couple, you have two options: to purchase as joint tenants, or to purchase as tenants in common.
Joint Tenants – 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 cannot 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.
Cohabitation Dispute Resolution
Where there are disputes over any aspect of cohabiting, either during your relationship or if your relationship ends, we can help you quickly and effectively resolve these issues, saving you time, money and stress.
Our family law solicitors specialise in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) including mediation and collaborative law. These techniques are designed to allow couples in dispute to avoid the need to go to court to achieve a resolution.
Mediation involves both parties sitting down with a trained neutral mediator to discuss the relevant issues and agree a mutually acceptable solution. Collaborative law involves both parties meeting, each supported by their own solicitor trained in collaborative law to negotiate a solution each party can accept.
Both methods can make it much faster, less expensive and, crucially, less confrontational to resolve cohabitation disputes. As well as being less stressful, this can allow you to maintain a better relationship, which can be essential if you are still cohabitating or have children you will need to continue parenting together.
Separation for cohabiting couples
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.
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 to be there to answer any questions you have along the way.
Frequently Asked Questions about cohabitation
What is cohabitation and what does it mean?
Cohabitation is the term used to describe an unmarried couple that lives 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 to safeguarding your assets and protecting your interests.
The myths surrounding "Common Law Marriage"
Many couples believe that if they have been cohabiting for a number of years without getting married, they will still have the same legal rights as a married couple. This is known as ‘common law marriage’, and while the idea might seem appealing to some couples, common law marriage has absolutely no legal standing and is not usually recognised by any court.
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 cohabiting couples 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 partner’s 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 birth mother automatically has full parental responsibility.
Her partner can only have parental responsibility if they are named on the birth certificate, have signed a written Parental Responsibility Agreement with the mother, have obtained 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.
How much does it cost to separate when cohabiting?
The legal costs depend on the length of time it takes to reach agreement over how property and any other shared assets will be divided. However, at Crisp & Co we pride ourselves on offering the most competitive rates for the best expertise, often charging only half the rates of similarly qualified solicitors.
We do understand that it is important that you know from the outset what your legal fees are likely to amount to. For this reason, we provide each and every client with a bespoke costs plan and time estimate from the very first appointment with regular updates as needed.
For those clients who have a need to limit costs to a certain sum, we also offer a ‘pay as you go’ service, whereby work is limited to a certain cost limit set by the client.
You will not be charged for your initial appointment at Crisp & Co. We can find out what your needs are and how we can help you and also give you an estimate of your likely overall legal fees, including expenses and VAT.
Get in touch with our expert cohabitation solicitors
Considering cohabitation? With our specialist knowledge in the field of relationships and living together, our cohabitation solicitors can deliver expert advice on what steps you need to take to protect your interests. Whether you are moving in together and want to create a cohabitation agreement, are buying property together or separating from a partner you cohabitate with, we can help.
Get in touch now by calling 0203 857 9885 or use the contact form below to request a call back.