Moving in for Christmas? – Five questions you need to consider13 Nov 2018
Cohabiting couples now make up a large percentage of families in the UK and this is expected to rise further as the cost of living increases and the financial pressures faced by millennials means that for many the dream wedding is taking a back seat.
Statistics released by Resolution, a national organisation of family lawyers, show that six out of every ten cohabiting couples believe that they have the same protection as married couples when their relationship breaks down. The simple answer is – they do not.
Below, we set out answers to some of the common questions which concern the cohabiting couple.
We are about to move in together, what should we do to prepare?
A sensible approach would be to make a plan for what you both would like to happen with your finances both during your relationship and should the relationship break down.
A cohabitation agreement can set out how you deal with your finances both during the relationship and on breakdown. It can specify who is to pay for what, who owns what in terms of possessions, how you will handle debts together, etc.
If you are going to invest in a home with your partner it is worth considering a declaration of trust which can clearly set out, for example, how you intend for the property to be held (this could be jointly or in equal or unequal shares) and who will make what contributions towards the deposit, the mortgage payments, and the running costs of the property. This document can also set out how you wish to deal with the sale of the property, and the distribution of the proceeds, should your relationship breakdown.
What if we break up, what happens to our finances?
Common law marriage does not exist within the law of England & Wales, this is regardless of the amount of time you and your partner have lived together or whether you have children together. The effect of this is that you and your partner have no financial responsibility towards each other if your relationship breaks down.
If, when your relationship breaks down, you haven’t planned ahead and are able to come to an agreement with your partner about how you wish to deal with your finances, a separation agreement can be used to document your plans. This option depends on how amicable things are as neither you nor your partner have a duty to do this.
I plan to give up work to raise our children, does that change things?
On the breakdown of a marriage a parent who stays at home to raise children is not penalised financially when the assets of the marriage are divided. There is no such comparison for cohabitees, who do not have any claim in their own right to the property or pension of their partner, and are not entitled to make a maintenance claim for themselves.
Any claims for capital or income can only be made for the benefit of your children.
Generally, as with married couples, the Child Maintenance Service deal with maintenance claims for children. Where funds allow it, the court can make orders for the benefit of children of unmarried parents, this could be in the form of a lump sum payment or an order to provide a property for the benefit of the child until they leave full time education.
Can I stay in my partner’s house if we break up?
There is no immediate right for you to stay in the property if your name is not registered on the title deeds to the property. This is a complicated area of law and if this is something that is concerning you, you should take legal advice to find out your options.
Marriage isn’t for us, so what happens if my partner dies?
If one partner predeceases the other without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not inherit anything that wasn’t owned jointly with their partner, such as a house or joint bank account, as the rules of intestacy do not account for cohabitees.
It is therefore essential that you keep your will up to date to make provision for your partner.
To speak to a family law or private client expert about any of the issues raised here, please contact us.