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Cohabitation & Pre-nupital Arrangements

If you are living together in a property owned by one or both of you, you may wish to draw up a Cohabitation Agreement setting out the extent of your interest in the property. In the unfortunate event that your relationship breaks down we provide advice about the division of the assets and any other issues that may arise.

Frequent Questions:

Pre-nuptial Agreements

If you are considering marriage it may be sensible to give consideration to preparing a Pre-Nuptial Agreement. If properly drafted and both partners have had the benefit of legal advice, considerable weight can be attached to it by the Court in the event of an unforeseen dispute.

Cohabitation Agreement

There is no specific law in respect of co-habitation. To avoid difficulties in the event of a separation it is wise to make provision prior to setting up home by way of a Co-habitation Agreement. This document is designed to set out your intentions and help to avoid or reduce difficulties in the event of separation. This is simply a legal document that allows decisions to be made about any possessions you have and the responsibilities in your relationship. Thinking about these things early on can make things easier and less painful in the event of a separation, and may have the effect of saving money on legal fees in the long run.

A Cohabitation Agreement is tailor-made to you and your particular circumstances and can cover important decisions on what will happen to your house if you separate, how joint possessions or debt will be shared, it can even set out how you will resolve any disagreements e.g. via professional guidance from a surveyor if your house valuation cannot be agreed. The Cohabitation Agreement will come into use if you separate and are unable to deal with the separation amicably. In this situation the Cohabitation Agreement may need to be enforced, so it is imperative that you seek legal advice to ensure your Cohabitation Agreement is legally binding and that the terms are properly negotiated.

Your home

Buying a home together is an exciting event. It is important that when doing so as cohabitants you consider whose name is on the title deeds. If both your name and that of your partner are on the title deeds then you will own the property as either joint tenants or tenants in common. If it is as joint tenants then you own it in equal shares. If you own the house as tenants in common your entitlement will depend on whether there has been a declaration of trust. This is a document which specifies what proportion of the equity you each own. If there is no declaration then if there is a dispute the division of the equity will have to be decided by the Court based on your financial arrangements. This will include looking at your respective contributions towards the purchase at the time when the property was acquired and payments made towards the mortgage and other household bills etc. This is a complex area of law and you should seek advice from one of our specialist family lawyers.

Death

If you own a property as joint tenants then on death of one partner the property will automatically pass to the surviving partner, no matter what is said in any Will that may have been made. If a property is owned as tenants in common the Will of the partner who has died will determine what happens to their share. If there is no Will then the property will pass in accordance with the rules of intestacy. Unlike husbands and wives, cohabitants do not automatically inherit from one another. This means that the only way cohabitants can provide for one another on death is to make a Will.

Frequent Questions:

  1. What is a common law wife?
  2. Couples who live together are legally known as “cohabitants”. Contrary to popular belief cohabitants do not have the same legal rights as married couples. There is no such thing as a “common law wife” or “common law husband”.

  3. If we separate does my partner have to support me?
  4. As there is no specific law for co-habitation there is no obligation of support, except in the case of children.

  5. Can I remain in the home after our break up?
  6. This would depend on your circumstances such as whether you had an interest in the property, or whether the home is where the children from the relationship reside. In this case it may be retained for their benefit.

    In the event of these steps not being taken at the outset, our specialist family lawyers are here to offer practical advice and guide you through this difficult time. If you have family related issues and need to seek advice or need a solicitor to give you support then please don't hesitate to give us a call on 0208 767 9090.

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