Consultations in Lymington, London and on the Isle of wight
Tel: 01983 821344
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Co-habitation-Agreements/Disputes

Many people still believe that by cohabiting, they acquire legal rights similar to those of married couples. In respect of heterosexual couples this remains a misconception, as English Law still does not recognise this concept. Same sex couples now have the opportunity to acquire similar rights to married couples by registering their relationship under the new Civil Partnership Act 2004 but this is not mandatory and many may choose not to do so.

In our view, anybody who is thinking of living with someone else should take legal advice before doing so with a view to entering a co-habitation ('Living Together') agreement.

Even if they do not wish to enter a Co-habitation Agreement, it is particularly important if a couple intend to purchase a home together that they define their respective shares in the property at the outset. Even if the arrangement is that one partner intends to live in the other's home and contribute to the outgoings they should both ensure that they are aware of their respective legal positions concerning the property. This is because under English Law, there is no presumption of co-ownership of property; regardless of how long a couple have lived together. Co-habitees have to fall back on trust and property law to resolve disputes between them over property, which can be complex and unsatisfactory.

The issues that arise on the breakdown of a cohabiting couple's relationship are similar to those on the breakdown of a marriage, but the law does not provide the same legal remedies. For example, cohabitees are not entitled to ask for maintenance from each other nor are they entitled to a financial settlement under which assets or money can be transferred between them.

Where there are children involved, the law does provide more protection. The Child Support Agency will assess child support for children, whether their parents are married or not. Furthermore, under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, the Courts also have power to make financial settlements for the maintenance and housing of children.