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Couples increasingly live together these days without marrying or entering civil partnerships. Whilst this is obviously socially acceptable in the 21st century, people are very often ignorant of the fact that cohabiting couples still do not have the same legal rights as those who have married or entered civil partnerships.
In some cases, couples who have lived together for many years assume that when the relationship comes to an end they will be entitled to a financial settlement merely because of the length of the relationship. This is not the case. Unfortunately, and all too often, however, they only become aware of this after the relationship breaks down or sometimes when their partner dies. This can become even more of an issue where there are children who need to be provided for.
Where the property in which the couple have been residing is registered in the name of just one or other of the couple but the other person has contributed financially to its purchase or improvement, that person may be still able to claim an interest in the property to reflect their contribution. This can have implications not only for person who is the legal owner, but also for family members of the owner who have been left the property under his/her Will.
It is important that all these issues are considered and preferably before the parties decide to cohabit. We always recommend that consideration is given to the couple setting out what the financial arrangements are going to be and what is intended in respect of the parties’ interests in any property. This can be done in a Cohabitation Agreement drawn up by one party’s solicitor and signed by both parties after the other has had independent legal advice. This way complex and costly disputes should be avoided.