Cohabiting Couples: Do You Know Your Cohabitation Rights?

Although married and civil partner couple families were the most common type of family in 2016, cohabiting couples were the fastest growing family type. The Office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that there were 1.5 million cohabiting couple families in the UK in 1996 and this was doubled 20 years later with over 3.3 million in 2016.

Couples choosing cohabitation as an alternate option or precursor to marriage seems to be the main reason for this growth over the last couple of decades. With this being such a popular choice nowadays, it is more important than ever that couples are informed regarding their cohabitation rights.

What Are Your Cohabitation Rights?

Common Law Marriage

A social term that is normally used to refer to cohabiting couples is ‘common law marriage’. Unfortunately, it is commonly misperceived by many that this provides the cohabiting couple with the same rights as a married couple. This is incorrect, ‘common law’ couples are not recognised by the legal system. Therefore, the cohabiting couple do not share the same rights on these issues like married couples do:

  • Inheritance & Inheritance Tax – Bereaved common law partners are not automatically allowed to inherit from each other, nor are provisions for increasing the inheritance tax threshold in place.
  • Co-owing Assets – If the property is paid in the name of one partner, assets are not shared between both, and the other partner would struggle to recover their assets.

Cohabitation Agreement

Cohabitation agreements are contracts that set out unmarried partners’ rights in the relationship, in particular if it breaks down. The rights that are usually addressed in a cohabitation agreement are property ownership and finances. As there is no distinct law regulating cohabitation rights, cohabitation agreements are extremely recommended.

Are Cohabitation Agreements Legally Binding?

A cohabitation agreement is legally binding when conducted by qualified solicitors. In doing so, you can ensure that the agreement is watertight and will provide great security, along with a sound legal standing, against any potential future problems.

The Future of Cohabiting Couples

While these figures were from 5 years ago, it is clear to see that more and more couples are choosing to live together before or instead of marriage. With such a significant rise in numbers, this family type should not be ignored, and distinct cohabitation laws should be put into place.

For now, our Family Solicitors at Caversham Solicitors can help couples create cohabitation arrangements or with any disputes they may have at the time of a separation regarding property or children. Contact us today to arrange an appointment or to find out more information by emailing or calling 0800 085 5575.