Cohabitation - Your Rights

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27 April, 2020

Adrienne Baker

On the 25th February 2020 Forbes reported that the Government advice for couples who were currently living in separate households should either move in together or stay apart during the coronavirus lockdown. This was confirmed by the UK's Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Jenny Harries who stated that for couples not already co-habiting they should either "test the strength of their relationship" by moving in together or be prepared for a long period of time apart.

For the couples who decided to take that test and move in together, whether it is intended to be a short term solution or long term arrangement, it is unlikely that they would have considered the legal implications that co-habitation can bring.

Whilst co-habitation does not give either party the same rights and entitlements as a married couple would have on the breakdown of a relationship, it is possible for the partner who is not the legal owner of the property to establish a beneficial legal interest in that property, in certain circumstances. These circumstances could include any financial contributions made to a mortgage or household bills, contributions to any renovations and the intentions of the parties. If a beneficial interest is acquired the partners entitlement may secure the following:

  • Acquiring a right to live in the property
  • Receiving a share of the proceeds when the property is sold
  • Receiving a percentage share of the property or
  • Receiving compensation in relation in lieu of ownership rights in the form of a lump sum payment.

If couples are deciding on a permanent change to their living arrangements, it is recommended they consider the following:

  • Is there intended to be any change in ownership of the property?
  • What financial contributions will each partner make, and who will pay which bills?
  • Your finances such as whether there will be any joint accounts or changes to your pension rights?
  • Who will own the items in the home, including any jointly acquired items?
  • What will happen if the relationship breaks down?

It is advised that parties have honest and frank discussions regarding the above to save any heartache and potential financial stress further down the line. Cohabitation disputes can be complex, contentious and expensive.

Cohabitation Agreement

To protect both parties rights and intentions it is recommended that any agreement be recorded in a legal document called a cohabitation agreement. Ideally parties would enter into a cohabitation agreement before living together but they can be made any time during the relationship.

Any agreement would require both parties to obtain their own independent legal advice and it is recommended that it is drafted by a legal professional to ensure it meets all drafting and contractual requirements.

Our experienced Family Solicitors are on hand to assist and provide further advice if required.

For more information contact Adrienne Baker in our Family/Divorce department via email or phone on 01254 580 000. Alternatively send any question through to Forbes Solicitors via our online Contact Form.

Learn more about our Family/Divorce department here

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