Nowadays many couples are opting for cohabitation over marriage due to personal choices in those relationships. Cohabitation usually refers to couples who live together without formally registering as a married couple. Most people think that after they’ve been living with their partner for a couple of years, they have the same rights as married couples. This is not the case.
Legal Position of Cohabiting vs Married Couples
Cohabiting couples have fewer rights to their partner than those part of a married couple. It can be a good idea to agree on a cohabitation contract that sets out the terms of the living arrangements between parties.
A cohabitation agreement can be a relatively simple and cost-efficient method of protecting your interests if unmarried. It can detail how mortgages and bills will be paid as well as provide a framework for dealing with property and assets in the event of separation. It should ideally be signed and then witnessed as a deed and state that the parties intend to be bound by the terms.
It is advisable to speak to an experienced Family Law solicitor if you are looking to come up with such an agreement as they will be able to outline your legal position and offer sound advice.
Also, if you are in a cohabitant relationship it is in your best interests to make a Will to ensure your partner is cared for in the event of your passing.
Married couples have more rights than those in cohabited relationships. As mentioned above those in cohabited relationships may not automatically inherit anything unless a Will is made, whereas those in a marriage will as their spouse is their next of kin.
If married, you will also generally have more rights concerning housing, tax, pensions, inheritance, and financial support rather than cohabitation.
The Effect of Cohabitation on Divorce
Cohabitation before marriage can influence the outcome of the divorce process.
An unmarried couple can separate informally without the intervention of a court. The court does have the power to make orders relating to the care of the children.
A married couple can separate informally but if you want to end the marriage formally, you will need to go to court and get divorced. Both partners have a right to stay in the home until either there has been a divorce, or the court has ordered one partner to leave.
If unmarried and the property you live in is owned by your partner, you can live there only if they permit you to do so. They could evict you after giving reasonable notice, after which, you would be trespassing.
Cohabitation after separation is also considered with courts looking at time spent together or if the partner is involved in childcare/costs etc. Overall, you will have more legal rights in a marriage than in a cohabitation but along with that comes more responsibility to your partner. It is up to you to decide which of these is more suitable for your relationship but either way it is important to know your rights.
How We Can Help
H McPartland & Sons is a team of experienced and highly skilled solicitors in family law. If you have any questions or concerns about cohabitation, please contact us today.