Many people believe that there are common law rights for unmarried couples if they are to separate. However, in England and Wales there are no common law rights where couples who are not married or in a civil partnership, because they are not recognised as couples in the eyes of the law.
In 2016, the government had considered giving unmarried couples more rights, however the motion was unsuccessful and no further developments have been made.
Currently, couples who live together, cohabiting, do not have any legal protection.
Property of Cohabiting Couples
It is common for unmarried couples to own a home together, if the property is held in joint names, the assets will be divided in accordance with how the property is held (that is equal shares or specified shares).
If the property is held in one of the partner’s names and not the other, for example where one owned the property previously before the relationship, the partner will retain full ownership.
The legal issue arises where the person whose name is not held on the property but has financially contributed to the property. This can be in the way of mortgage repayments, deposit contribution or improvements made to the property. This can cause major legal issues over ownership and will often result in a dispute.
A contributing party who is not the legal owner of the property can make a claim for an interest/share in the property.
No Right to Inherit
Many couples who cohabit mistakenly believe that they are in a ‘common law marriage’, which would lead them to believe they have legal protection of inheriting, in the event of death.
In actual fact, cohabiting couples do not have common law rights. This means that neither person would be entitled to any share of the other person’s assets unless explicitly provided for in a valid will.
Legal Protections for Unmarried Couples
One way to ensure legal protection for both parties is to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement; this is sometimes referred to as a ‘Living Together Agreement’.
This is a legal document which sets out how assets including property are divided in the event of separation. You can also record how matters will be dealt with during cohabitation, for example, financial contributions towards a property.
Entering into a Cohabitation Agreement can provide clarity and reduce the risk of financial losses if the relationship fails in the future.
A qualified family law solicitor at Fitz Solicitors can provide you with the advice you need in relation to cohabiting rights and the creation of a Cohabiting Agreement.
If you would like an appointment to discuss this further, please do not hesitate to call us on 01753 592000.