In recent years with the emergence of civil partnerships and the changing setup of families (plus less societal pressure for people to be married) cohabitation is becoming more and more common. However, this does also mean there are various legal issues that can potentially arise and is important to be aware of these whether you are about to live together, you currently do so or you intend to separate.
The definition of a cohabiting couple is two people of any gender or sexuality who live together who have not entered into a marriage or a civil partnership.
One of the potential problems with cohabitation is legal protection- for example a couple may have a property together but it may not necessarily be clear who owns what proportion of the property. The difficulty is in proving that the couple had the intention of sharing ownership, something that can be very difficult to do.
In effect, this is something that needs to be clarified when you first purchase a property together and this should be detailed in the initial deed.
Another mistake is some people who enter into a cohabiting relationship think it is a “common law” marriage and this comes with legal protection in terms of inheritance and so forth. In simple terms this is not the case, in fact if you want your partner or children to inherit from you then you need to specify it in your Will.
There are more rights when it comes to children of cohabiting partners- in effect there are legal obligations to ensure that they are properly looked after and they are provided for in the event of cohabiting partners separating.
As you can see there are a lot of potential issues that can occur. While there are some protections in place effectively the law regards cohabiting couples as two separate individuals. Therefore, you have to consider whether or not this is the right situation for you or whether getting married or entering into a civil partnership is more appropriate.
This is not to say that any of these options are any better or worse- every couple is different and you have to decide that for yourself. However in legal terms it does help to speak to an experienced legal representative who can talk you through the various options available to you in order to give you the best legal representation and protection regardless of your relationship status.
For more information please contact our specialist team today so we can help you make the right choice for you and your partner!