Planned new cohabitation rights legislation faces an uncertain passage through Parliament so unmarried couples should act now to safeguard their future, advise solicitors at Coles Miller.
Unmarried couples are strongly recommended to consider a cohabitation agreement and a declaration of trust to protect their finances and property. They should also have wills drawn up.
Dorset-based Coles Miller’s family law solicitors are seeing an increasing number of cases that relate to cohabiting rather than married couples.
Family law solicitor and mediator Richard Perrins said: “The Cohabitation Rights Bill and the Divorce (Financial Provision) Bill both received their first reading in the House of Lords on June 4 but further time must be scheduled if they are to become law.
“Without the protection that these bills provide, cohabiting couples must take action themselves to protect their finances,” he added.
Individuals living together as cohabiting couples have virtually no rights under family law in comparison with their married counterparts.
Mr Perrins said: “Cohabitation is a really difficult area of the law because it still does not reflect the reality of modern life.
“You can be married to someone for 20 years and be entitled to claim a share of your spouse’s pension but you can live with someone as a couple for 20 years and have no claim on their pension due to the simple fact that you are not married.”
Getting a cohabitation agreement drawn up is vital to cover matters such as:
- property and finances - who owns what
- how the household bills are divided up
- how much each party pays towards repairing and improving the family home
- debts - who is responsible for any monies owed.
Like prenuptial agreements, cohabitation agreements are not strictly legally binding but courts are taking increasing notice of them.
“If there were a dispute about the interest in a property, the court could take into account a clearly written cohabitation agreement,” said Mr Perrins.
A declaration of trust is an agreement to protect each cohabitee’s share of the family home - it reflects how much each person has paid towards the property and their responsibility for any mortgage repayments.
“Declarations of trust are a ‘no brainer’ if you want to protect your interest in the property,” said Mr Perrins.
For more information, please contact Coles Miller family law solicitor and mediator Richard Perrins, 01202 694891.