The breakdown of a relationship is stressful in any circumstances and we understand that confusion about how to deal with finances can add to the stress. If you have cohabited with a partner, but not married, our solicitors can advise you about your options where the relationship has broken down.
The most common belief about cohabitation is that it can amount to a “common law marriage”; that over time you can gain rights similar to spouses or civil partners. This is a myth, “common law marriages” do not exist.
When the couple are married or are civil partners, there is a legal framework in place to deal with all aspects of finances on the relationship breakdown including income, property, and pensions. Unfortunately that framework is not available to cohabitees no matter how long the relationship.
A Cohabitation Agreement is a legally binding contract that cohabitees can enter into to regulate their affairs. Provision can be made as to how assets should be treated during the relationship and in circumstances where the relationship breaks down. A Cohabitation Agreement can be entered into even if the couple are already cohabiting.
Property owned by cohabitees is governed by Trusts Law which determines what interests both parties have in a property, whether it is owned solely or jointly. However, the law is complex and the best way of avoiding a dispute is to enter into a Declaration of Trust when purchasing the property which will set out what interests you both have in it. If this has not been done at the time of purchase, it can be entered into at any time subsequently. For a relatively modest expense at the outset you can avoid significant loss or expense in the future should the relationship breakdown. It is not uncommon for cohabitants to have both a Cohabitation Agreement and a Declaration of Trust.
Please see our Purchasing a Property page for further information.
When children are involved the fact that the parents have or have not been married will generally make little difference to arrangements for the children where the relationship has broken down. One consistent factor is that child maintenance would normally be payable by the non-resident parent to the resident parent.