How Cohabiting Couples can Protect Themselves

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Cohabiting Couples & The Common Law Marriage Myth

Resolution, an organisation that campaigns for improvements to the family justice system, reported that the number of couples choosing to tie the knot has in fact been steadily decreasing since the 1970s. Cohabiting couples are now the fastest growing family type.

There are 3.3m cohabiting couples in the UK; that equates to one family in five. What hasn’t changed over the years however, is the misconception that cohabiting couples have similar rights to married couples in the eyes of the law. The myth of common law marriage, still persists. Resolution is using this popular date to raise awareness amongst cohabiting couples about their lack of rights.

Whilst the law relating to cohabiting couples is seen as inadequate and in need of reform, there are ways in which we can help. If you are an unmarried couple living together, putting the following measures in place could make your life less complicated.

A Cohabitation Agreement

A Cohabitation Agreement can clearly set out your intentions with regards to the property and other assets which each person brings into the relationship. It also covers any property, assets or liabilities which you may acquire jointly during the relationship.

A Cohabitation Agreement can also include information about how you as a couple wish to manage your finances during your relationship. For example, reference can be made to living expenses and bank accounts.

In the unfortunate event of a relationship breakdown, provision will be made for this within the Cohabitation Agreement. You will each agree on what would happen upon separation in terms of selling or transferring property, dividing assets and dealing with liabilities. By entering into such an Agreement, you can exercise more control over your finances, rather than relying on the Court to resolve the issue. This can avoid a lengthy and costly Court process.

Making a Will

Within a Will, each of you can make clear your intentions with regards to property and other assets in the event of death. You can provide for your partner in ways that the law may not. If you are unmarried and do not have a Will, your partner will not automatically inherit your estate under the intestacy rules. Provide for your family by making a Will and keeping it up to date.

A Declaration of Trust

If you are purchasing a property together, it is also sensible to enter into a Declaration of Trust. This is a legally binding agreement between co-owners of a property which sets out how they own the beneficial interest in that property. A Declaration of Trust can reflect how much each cohabitee has paid towards the property and how any sale proceeds are to be split if the property is sold.

Cohabiting couples should note that having both names on the property, a Cohabitation Agreement, a Declaration of Trust and an up to date Will does not add up to the level of protection offered by marriage, but it will help if the relationship breaks down. We recommend putting these steps in place at an early stage.

To find how we can help you protect yourselves as a couple, please contact Kristie Rhodes on 01452 429867, or email


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