Cohabitation has increased considerably in the United Kingdom over the last twenty years. Unfortunately it appears there is a huge misunderstanding when it comes to the status of unmarried couples without children.
Couples that cohabit have no rights over their partners income or assets unless they own the assets jointly, have made substantial capital injection or alternatively they have entered into a cohabitation agreement stating how assets are to be divided. You do not obtain rights against a person or their assets simply by living with them regardless of how long you live together.
It is possible for couples who live together to have a cohabitation agreement put in place. Most couples only concern themselves with what happens if one or the other of them dies. Unfortunately the main problems are caused upon separation not death and the majority of couples have nothing in place for this eventuality. Parties do not like to think at the start of their relationship about the relationship breaking down, however this is the time matters need to be considered.
Advantages Of A Cohabitation Agreement
- A cohabitation agreement can be drawn up to state whatever the parties agree
- The agreement will provide a framework for what will happen if the relationship breaks down
- Creates certainty so both parties know where they stand
- The agreement provides a record of the parties intentions at that time.
It is common to have in the agreement details as to who will retain cars; items purchased jointly items on credit etc. If for example you have a hobby of motorbike racing and your partner purchases you a motor bike, as a present, however the bike is in your partners name, legally the bike is the partners asset as it is in their name. The reality of the situation is that the bike was purchased for you as a present and it was intended to be yours. If it is stated in the cohabitation agreement that you will retain the bike upon separation this has resolved a potentially explosive argument upon separation. All matters must be considered, as the reality of situations is often very different to the position as far as the law is concerned.
Cohabitation agreements are based in contract law however this does not stop one of the parties trying to renege on the agreement. If this occurs it would then be for a Court to decide matters. If there is no agreement in place it is then one parties word against the other and the parties have to resolve the issue amongst themselves. A Court can only become involved when there is a legal matter in issue, i.e. in this instance breach of a contractual agreement. Without the agreement there is nothing either party can do to make the other part adhere to what they had previously verbally agreed.
If you are cohabiting or thinking about cohabiting I cannot emphasis enough the importance of trying to protect yourself in case the unthinkable happens.