It sometimes comes as a surprise to cohabitees that under the current law, there are very limited rights afforded to cohabitees in the event of a relationship breakdown, regardless of how long you have lived together. The infamous myth of the ‘common law’ husband or wife, is just that, a myth!

Unlike spouses, cohabitees have no automatic right to maintenance, lump sum payments, pension provisions or inheritance claims as a spouse would under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973.

The law surrounding cohabitation is currently a legal minefield as there is no real structure afforded to parties who wish to live together and be fully committed to each other without the legal formalities of a marriage. Cohabitation is on the increase and according to the National Office of Statistics, cohabiting couple families are the fastest growing family type in the UK.

Not knowing your rights in the event that a relationship breaks down can be costly. We advise all cohabiting couples to enter into a cohabitation agreement to ensure that the practical considerations in respect of your assets are clearly set out at the beginning of your cohabitation, should the worst happen.

If you are considering cohabiting with your partner and want to be clear on what your rights are, contact our family team to discuss the practicalities of your individual situation. Our property team will also be able to provide you with bespoke advice and discuss with you your options of owning property as joint tenant or tenants in common – they can also talk you through the benefits of entering into a Trust Deed with your partner. Our probate team are also on hand to discuss the formalities of your will, to ensure that your property is left to who you intend it for.

Prenuptial Agreements

Whilst prenuptial agreements are not legally binding in England and Wales, the courts are increasingly attracting more and more weight to them when determining financial arrangements in divorce cases.

Whilst we accept that it is not the most romantic of conversations to have with your soon to be spouse, agreeing on what will happen to your assets in advance, can potentially avoid a costly and lengthy court battle over who gets what in the event that your marriage breaks down.
Think of it in another way – as a type of insurance policy. You don’t ever plan on using the policy, and most people go through life never having to make a claim, however those people who don’t take out any insurance, usually end up paying more because they don’t have it.

Either way, if you choose to take out an insurance policy or not, it is vital to obtain legal advice to avoid any ambiguity as to the terms. In addition, it is important to consider that what is relevant in the first few years of marriage may not be so relevant later down the line therefore any significant changes to your marriage, such as having children may impact the original terms of the agreement. If you have already entered into a prenuptial agreement and experienced any significant changes, it would be wise to have the agreement reviewed by a lawyer to ensure that the terms are still enforceable.

Contact our family law team today to discuss the options available to you before your big day!

For information on costs please see Costs.