Cohabitation Awareness Week is a week devoted to raising awareness of the current issues around cohabitation, including the myth of ‘common law marriage’.

There are 3.3 million unmarried couples living together in the UK representing 17 per cent of all families.

Many of these couples believe they are protected by the myth of ‘common law marriage’, when in fact they have to protection at all.

It is possible to live with someone for decades and have children together, then simply walk away without taking any responsibility for a former partner when the relationship breaks down.

This can have a huge impact on women and children, particularly where a mother has given up work or reduced her working hours to raise a family.

So what are your rights?

  • Property and finances – If your name isn’t on a deed or rental agreement, you do not have an automatic right to stay in your home. Even if you’ve put money into your home by paying bills or helping with the mortgage or deposit, you could be asked to leave your home and be left with nothing.
  • Children – If you have children together, your partner would still need to support them, but wouldn’t need to support you.

What you can do?

Cohabitation agreement – A cohabitation agreement sets out how your finances, property and arrangements for the children will be handled if you split up.

  • Declaration of trust – This sets out how you want to own your property and in what shares. It can also cover what happens if you split up. For example, if one partners’ parents provide a loan for the deposit, a deed of trust can record this contribution and make sure they are paid back if the couple splits and they sell their home.
  • Will – If one partner dies, the other does not have an automatic right to inherit their share of the property or possessions, unless this is spelt out in a will. Even if you have lived in the joint home for decades, without a will or your name on the deeds, you could lose your home and any proceeds from the sale.

For advice about putting in place any of these measures to protect you and your family, contact Sarah Jones at Beswicks Legal at sarah.jones@beswicks.com or phone 01782 205000.

Our family law solicitors are members of Resolution, which is a group of family law professionals who believe in resolving financial issues in a constructive non-controversial manner.