Frequently Asked Questions about Cohabitation

24 September 2020 Blog Donna Goodsell

Am I a cohabitee?

Yes. If you are living with someone in an unmarried, stable and sexual relationship, which offers financial support. It is not necessary for you to have children together to be classed as a cohabitee.

Do I have any rights after separation when not married, even though we have been living together for years?

Yes, although usually limited to property disputes and possibly, financial and contact issues relating to the children. If a property is held in the name of only one of you and you do not have a cohabitation agreement, the court will determine your shared intentions in relation to the ownership. There is no concept of a ‘common law wife’, so even if you have lived together for decades, the court’s powers are limited and cannot be aligned with the consideration given to divorcing couples.

Does the concept of ‘fairness’ apply here?

In a financial dispute following divorce, the court will endeavour to achieve an outcome, which is fair to both parties. In a ‘cohabitation dispute’ the court will apply the principle of shared intentions in relation to ownership of the property. As such, if you are not married, the outcome could be different for the financially weaker party.

What if my partner wants me to leave and the property is in his name?

First, we could negotiate to determine whether you have acquired an interest in the property. If however, agreement cannot be reached, it may necessary to apply to the court to declare the percentage of your interest in the property and for the property to be sold to give you the equity due to you.

How will the court determine my interest?

The court will consider evidence from each of you to show any agreement as to the shares in which you intended the property should be owned. Such evidence could be in the form of an informal written agreement, your actions and intentions, for example, by paying the deposit, or servicing the mortgage installments and how they differ from any records held on the Land Registry.

How can we clarify and protect our interests without getting married?

The best way in which to protect your respective interests would be to take legal advice and enter into a Cohabitation Agreement. The Cohabitation Agreement will be binding in the event of your separation if drafted correctly and executed as a Deed. By entering into such an Agreement, you could avoid future acrimonious disputes and litigation.

What issues does a Cohabitation Agreement address?

The Cohabitation Agreement is a bespoke document; it is unique to you, and your particular circumstances. It can address a variety of issues including but not limited to the proportion of your interest in the family home, or business, or even who will take the family car if you separate.

And the children?

Thankfully, it its determination of with whom the children should live, the court is not concerned with whether you were previously married and will focus upon a resolution which serves the best interests of the children. This could include the non-resident parent making specific financial provision to the parent with day to day care of the children during the children’s minority.

What about legal costs?

At Goodsells Family Law we endeavour to keep costs to a minimum. You will discover our costs to be extremely competitive. It is certainly more cost-effective to take precautionary measures and, for example, to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement, than to litigate upon separation and face the possibility of paying both yours, and your ex-partner’s costs if you lose. Either way, the first step would be to have a consultation with us, to determine your rights and how we can secure your best interests.

Contact Our Family Law Solicitor in Clapham, London

For specialist legal advice on preparing a Cohabitation Agreement, call Goodsells Family Law on 020 7622 2221 or complete our online enquiry form.