Living Together

Contrary to popular belief, under the law of England and Wales, there is no such thing as a common law marriage. This means that cohabitants have no legal rights against each other in the same way that married couples do should the relationship break down.

Unfortunately, as so many people believe that there is such a thing as common law marriage, and that they will be protected in the event of relationship breakdown, issues can the arise as to, for example, the ownership of the family home, bank accounts, investments and personal chattels. We can help to ensure that you are protected in the event that the relationship breaks down.

We can help you to ensure that your interests in a property are protected, and that any other agreement in relation to the ownership of the property, such as what should happen if one cohabitee dies or if the relationship breaks down, is upheld.

We can also help to protect any other agreement in relation to your cohabitation, such as the ownership of any bank accounts, vehicles or other assets as well as who will be responsible for the outgoings of the property. We can also help to protect cohabitees who have given up work to care for the children of the relationship.

Upon the death of a partner, it may be possible for cohabitees to claim against their estate but is not guaranteed and the extent of that claim will be uncertain. Our specialist advisors can also help to ensure that your wishes as to what you and your partner should each receive from your respective estates upon death are upheld, and that you each have adequate insurance in place to protect the other in the event of death.

We can help with:

  • Protecting your or your parents’ contributions towards the purchase of your property
  • Protecting your or your parents’ contributions should you die
  • Protecting any agreement in relation to the occupation of the property and ownership of other assets
  • Ensuring that your wishes as to what your partner should receive upon your death are upheld
  • Ensuring that there is adequate insurance in place to protect your partner and any children upon your death
  • Claims on behalf of children of the relationship

Frequently Asked Questions

Despite frequent portrayals on television and the understanding held by the general public, there is no such thing as a common law marriage. The relationship, when it is continuing, would have been considered to be a ‘cohabiting relationship’.

Cohabitees have no rights against the other, as individuals do upon a divorce. In our experience, this can be devastating to some clients, who may have spent years and sometimes decades in what they believed to be a common law marriage.

Where a cohabiting couple own a property together, they will each have a financial interest in that property. The extent of that interest will depend on how the property is owned at the Land Registry and/or the terms of any Declaration of Trust.

Where just one party’s name is ‘on the deeds’, it can be much more difficult for the other party to prove that they own a share in the property, but essentially, there needs to be an agreement or understanding between the cohabitees that they would each own the property, and detrimental reliance by the person that is not named on the deeds.

It is also possible to bring claims on behalf of any children of the relationship. This might include claims for maintenance, lump sums and the transfer or use of a property. However, such claims are on behalf of and for the benefit of that child, and not the ex-cohabitee.

We have witnessed many individuals who, after investing time, money, effort and commitment into a cohabiting relationship, and feeling that they were in a partnership from which they would benefit equally, have had to fight for a fair settlement.

Even where an individual has been able to successfully argue for a share in the house, they are not entitled to any maintenance (apart from child maintenance). They are also not entitled to a share of their ex’s private pensions. This can leave those individuals in a very financially-vulnerable position.

If you are currently in a cohabiting relationship, it would be very sensible to take advice now on how you can be protected in the event that the relationship breaks down.

If your relationship has already broken down, please contact us for advice on what you are entitled to.

It may be possible to establish that you own a share of the property, based on your payments to the mortgage and the works that you have carried out.

To claim a share in the property, you would need to prove that there was an agreement or understanding with your partner that you would have a share, plus detrimental reliance upon that agreement or a change in position by you.

Sometimes there is evidence of discussions which demonstrate that there was an agreement or understanding. Very often, however, the court is left to deduce parties’ unspoken intentions to determine if there was a common intention or understanding between them about the ownership of the property. This can be risky for both the homeowner and the other party, as much will depend on how the court interprets conversations held between the parties or how they arranged their relationship.

Where the couple are or were engaged, and the non-owner has contributed financially or in ‘money’s worth’ to the improvement of the property, the non-owner acquires a share in the property, unless there is a contrary agreement.

While the relationship is continuing and you are on good terms, it would be sensible for your interest in the property to be agreed and properly documented into a declaration of trust.

Without a declaration of trust, should the relationship break down, you may be left with no option but to attempt to convince a judge that you should have a financial interest in the property.

It depends on the status of your relationship.

If you are married to your spouse but you are not named on the Land Registry title register, it is possible to put a ‘home right’ on the title register. Not only will this enable you to remain living at the property, but it will also prevent your partner from being able to sell or mortgage the property without your prior knowledge.

This can be very useful if there is a risk that the property will be sold or mortgaged, and that the proceeds could be dissipated by your spouse before a financial agreement has been reached.

The situation is much more difficult if you are not married. If you have children, you may be able to make a claim on behalf of the children (but not yourself) for housing. This might include the right to stay in the family home or another property. You may also be able to obtain a lump sum to be used to meet your housing needs and for other reasons such as the purchase of a car or school fees. These claims can only be made for the benefit of a child, and not for yourself.

Technically if you are unmarried and do not have children, then you do not have a right of occupation in your partner’s home, but we may be able to help negotiate a position that could see you remain living in the home for at least a short period whilst you make alternative arrangements. If there was an agreement between you and your ex-partner that you would have an interest in the property then it may be that you are entitled to a payment in respect of the equity.

In all instances, it is important that legal advice is taken early on.

Leave It To Us...

For more information and to find out how we can help you, please contact us on 0345 646 0406 or fill in our online enquiry form and a member of our Team will be in touch.

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