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cohabitating couples how best to protect yourselves

Cohabitation laws are out of date - How best can cohabitating couples protect themselves in the UK?

Fahmida Miah, a solicitor in Comptons' Family Law team talks about the current law and how cohabitating couples can best protect themselves.

Despite the number of cohabiting couples in the UK rising, there is still no law providing cohabiting couples with suitable protection at the time of separation. Family practitioners have been voicing for many years now that the law regarding cohabitation is largely outdated and no longer fairly deals with the needs of modern family dynamics.

In August 2022, the House of Commons Women and Equalities Committee published a report on the rights of cohabiting partners. It highlighted that the law is largely outdated and called for urgent reform to this area of law. It also highlighted the need to campaign and raise awareness that cohabitating couples including those that are only religiously married, do not share the same rights as legally married couples irrespective of how long they have been living together.

If you are in a cohabiting relationship, please consider this article carefully to understand how you can best protect your position financially by entering a cohabitation agreement.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a contract that can be mutually agreed between cohabiting partners that have joint finances, assets and/ or children together, at the time of separation. Married couples are protected by laws when they are considering a separation and are given a range of entitlements. However, unmarried couples are not able to enjoy the same benefits. Accordingly, a cohabitation agreement is extremely advantageous to those that are looking to split and divide their assets and finances but are not married. That is not to say married couples cannot opt for this option. Married couples can consider entering a separation agreement if they are not ready to divorce, or cannot do so due to varying reasons, to name a few:

 

 

  • They are trailing a separation before embarking on a full-fledged divorce; or
  • They are barred from commencing divorce proceedings because they have not been married for a minimum of one year.

The document can cover a wide range of areas including but not limited to:

  • Ownership, transfer and/or disposal of properties;
  • Joint finances;
  • Child arrangements;
  • Maintenance for the low-earning partner;
  • Maintenance for the children.


What are the consequences of breaching a cohabitation agreement?



A cohabitation agreement is not legally binding in its own right. However, it can be considered a contract and the usual laws surrounding contracts can apply. Therefore, breaching a term in the separation can be considered akin to breaching a clause in a contract and the party breaching the term may be ordered to pay damages to the other party.

Further, if parties are married and decide to obtain a divorce at a later date, they can rely on a separation agreement to form the basis of their Consent Order in respect to their matrimonial finances.

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About the Author
Fahmida Miah, Solicitor, Family Law

Specialises in: Family Law

If you wish to discuss further, please contact us on 0207 485 0888 or complete our online contact form and one of our Family Law Specialists will be more than happy to help you.