There are now an estimated 3.3 million unmarried couples living together in the UK, compared with 1.5 million in 1996. Cohabiting couples have become the fastest-growing family type in the UK.
This week is ‘Cohabitation Awareness Week’ spearheaded by Resolution, an organisation of 6,500 family lawyers and other professionals in England and Wales, who believe in a constructive, non-confrontational approach to family law matters. We are proud members of Resolution.
At Hall Smith Whittingham, we are often contacted by people in cohabiting relationships who are seeking advice about their legal rights if their relationship breaks down.
A survey of 2,000 adults in the UK, carried out by COMRES on behalf of Resolution, found that two-thirds of those surveyed wrongly believed that “common-law marriage” laws exist when dividing up finances. Difficulties can occur when clarifying who owns what when a cohabiting relationship ends. Whereas a married couple’s property can be legally divided, unmarried couples without proof of ownership do not enjoy the same rights. In a worst case scenario, a cohabitee could be left with no financial security, homeless and with no access to pension or savings.
As there are no current laws which protect cohabiting couples, we can offer advice and support regarding the steps that cohabiting couples can take to protect themselves and their family. At Hall Smith Whittingham, we regularly offer advice and draw up cohabitation agreements which set out parties’ intentions regarding property and finances in the event that they should separate. We can also discuss and advise on how property can be held by co-habiting couples, and can draw up a document called a Declaration of Trust if the parties decide that they want to own the property in unequal shares.
For more information contact one of our Family Lawyers today for your free initial meeting.