Co-habiting couples – what are your rights?

12th October 2023

Moving in together can be one of the most exciting times for couples, however, many cohabiting couples fail to consider and make the necessary plans for their combined assets should the relationship break down in the future.

One of the biggest misconceptions is that cohabiting couples have rights under what is referred to as a ‘common law marriage’. However, such marriage does not exist and couples that are living together simply do not hold the same legal rights as married couples.

Research by Resolution found that over 60% of couples believed they had the same protection as married couples, now that they were cohabiting, if they were to split up.

Therefore, if you are cohabiting and the relationship breaks down with no agreement in place, there is little in the way of legal protection that can be done, even if you have children.

It is obvious that no couple moving in together wants to consider a potential break up but it is best to put in place precautions and plans to make the division of property, finances and childcare if relevant, fair for both people. As well as avoiding arguments if the relationship were to break down, such agreements can also help to regulate how you intend to co-habit together and how the property and day-to-day running of the house and finances will be managed.

So, what are your options when co-habiting?

  1. Declaration of trust

This applies if the property is owned as ‘tenants in common’. A declaration of trust can pinpoint what share of the property each party will own and therefore, how much each party will receive if the property were to be sold in the future.

A declaration of trust is advisable if each owner has made unequal contributions towards the purchase, and you want to ensure that such contributions are recognised if the relationship were to break down in the future.

  1. Cohabitation agreement

This is an agreement that is drawn up between a cohabiting, unmarried couple, dealing with the arrangements for the property, finances, and children. A cohabitation agreement assists unmarried couples whilst living together, as well as in the event of a future separation.

A variety of financial aspects are dealt with in the agreement, such as the bills each person will pay, support for a parent who leaves work to look after the family, child arrangements in the event of a separation, child support beyond any legal requirements, liabilities, pets, vehicles, how the property and any equity will be divided and any agreements regarding life insurance.

One of the main benefits of a cohabitation agreement is that it is unique to each couple. However, in order to ensure the agreement has as much weight as possible there are certain requirements and criteria that must be met. It is therefore strongly advised that both parties have independent legal advice.

At Kuits, we appreciate that it is not something anyone would necessarily want to think about a discuss at the outset of their relationship and moving in together, however, our main aim is to ensure that you are protected as much as possible in the event of a separation in the future.

Kuits FSQS registered
Kuits good employment supporter