Cohabitation Agreements and Rights in Northern Ireland

Cohabitation Agreements and Rights in Northern Ireland

The term cohabiting refers to a couple who are unmarried yet live together. When relationships reach a crisis or end between cohabiting couples, this is often when legal advice is sought and it can be a difficult time, particularly when children, property and finances are involved. 

What is a Cohabitation agreement for an unmarried couple?

A cohabitation arrangement is a legal document intended to protect unmarried couples ‘civil rights. If you have decided to separate it will make things straightforward. A cohabitation agreement provides you with your legal rights and helps ensure there is no confusion. For example, if you own property together a declaration of trust will set out your ownership rights.

McPartland & Sons can guide you on the best path forward should a separation occur. We will help you split any assets that you have together and explain what will happen with any properties that you own as property laws are complex. When you have a property dispute but no trust declaration, our professional and in-depth experience will help you make decisions that can address any selling or ownership issues. We also have considerable experience in supporting couples who have children too. 

Who will own the house if a cohabitation couple separates?

Often when a relationship breaks down, the first practical thought will be ‘who will live where?’ For cohabiting couples, the property continues to belong to the owner, whether that’s you or your other half. If you don’t own the house, it’s not likely that you will be able to remain living in the house long term.

If you bought the property together and have a joint mortgage, you are both liable for the full mortgage amount each month – you can’t just pay your half, however, if you choose to sell you will both be entitled to any money made from the sale. Alternatively, one person may choose to buy the other out so they can remain living in the house as the sole owner.

Can unmarried partners get spousal support after a breakup?

Legally, there is no financial obligation on the part of cohabiting couples if they divorce. If your partnership ends you have no legal obligation to offer financial assistance to your former spouse. Many cohabiting couples chose to come together to start a family. If the relationship breaks down, single parents cannot demand spousal support, but child support may be payable. 

Making a will

You and your partner may have been together for years, but in the eyes of the law, you aren’t married and therefore, should one of you pass away, the rights you assumed your partner would have may not be there. Protect each other’s interests, assets, and future by establishing a will which outlines in black and white what you want to happen with your property and finances should the worst happen. This ensures your partner is protected and not left vulnerable.  For more help and advice with creating a will, talk to our team.

What are the parental rights of unmarried fathers and unmarried mothers?

It’s critical for most parents that they have parental responsibility for their children. If you have parental responsibility for a child, you are responsible for the well-being of that child. 

Unmarried mothers bear automatic parental responsibility for their kids. Fathers are not necessarily liable for raising their children unless they are married to their mothers. Unmarried fathers can gain parental responsibility for their children by reporting birth together. Joint registration means the name of the father appears on the birth certificate of the infant, along with the mother. 

Parental accountability is relevant as it means that parents with children should have rights and responsibilities. Unmarried parents should carefully consider what will happen to their children if they break up, or if one parent dies suddenly.

Joint birth registration provides the children with extra protection in the case of accidental death since both parents have parental responsibility. For instance, if the mother passed away, a father without parental responsibilities does not necessarily have responsibilities for his children, which may make an already extremely complicated situation more difficult.

If you are cohabiting, there are steps you should take to avoid ending up in a difficult financial situation or a long court battle. At McPartland & Sons Solicitors, we offer professional legal advice so that you are fully aware of the financial implications of cohabiting and how best to protect yourself and your partner.  Think ahead, plan and act by contacting one of our specialised team members.

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