Many couples who live together presume that they are common-law spouses or partners and that they have the same legal protection as married couples. This presumption is incorrect. There is no such legal status in English law. Where cohabiting couples jointly own their home, the property cannot be sold or transferred without the consent of both parties. Upon sale of the property, there is a presumption that the net sale proceeds will be divided 50:50, even if one partner contributed more to its purchase. This is not the case unless they made a written legal agreement (known as a Declaration of Trust) at the time of purchase saying in what proportions they own the property or they can produce evidence contradicting a 50% split.
Where one party in a cohabiting couple owns their home solely, it is possible for the other party to claim an interest in that property by proving an entitlement through the establishment of a trust. Establishing a trust can be a very complex procedure and involves looking at the parties’ intentions, contributions, and actions.
As the law currently stands, the only solution for cohabiting couples who want legal protection should they split up is either to marry or enter into a civil partnership, or to draw up a Cohabitation Agreement. A Cohabitation Agreement lets you agree things in a fair way at the outset without the pressures and disputes that can arise if a relationship breaks down.
Our Family Team can assist you in drawing up a Cohabitation Agreement at the outset of your relationship and we can also assist you to resolve issues arising from any disputes about ownership of property or contributions to it.
Where a relationship fails and you do not have the protection of such an Agreement, resourceful and imaginative legal steps are necessary.
We have the experience and skills to negotiate for you the difficult territories of trust, contract, property and children law to find the best outcome.
Each year Resolution hold an Awareness Raising week and this year the focus is on highlighting the current issues around cohabitation, most notably how many unmarried couples living together are unaware of their lack of rights should they separate. The Family Department are offering initial free consultations about cohabitation issues during the week commencing 27th November 2017. For further information or to make an appointment please telephone 01285 649782.