Cohabitation is when a couple, either heterosexual or homosexual decide to live together without getting married or getting a civil partnership ceremony. In recent years cohabitation has become increasingly more popular with people choosing to live alternative lifestyles. There is a common disbelief amongst cohabiting couples that if they live together for long enough, they will be ‘common law married’ and have the same rights as a married couple. However is not true, there is no such thing as a common law marriage which leaves many cohabiting couples unprotected if things go wrong in their relationship, for example if they decide to split up or a partner dies.
It is important for people that are living together to protect themselvesjust in case anything should go wrong. Couples should make sure that your house has a joint tenancy. If you own the house you should ensure that ownership is equally divided. It is often a good idea to create a cohabitation agreement and you and you partner should make sure that you both have valid Wills.
If you live together without getting married or entering into a civil partnership the law will treat you as two seperate individuals. This means that if your relationship breaks down there are no laws protecting either party, except from what has been written into any contacts you may have signed regarding your house. When you are cohabiting and you split up neither partner has any right to any maintenance or property if it belongs to the other partner.
The same goes for the house that you live in. If you bought the house as tenants in common the equity in the house will be split according to who paid what. This means that the money will not get split equally if the house is sold each person will receive a percentage of the money in which they put in. Either party has the right to force through a sale in order to release their share of the equity. If you wish to avoid this, you should purchase a property as joint tenants. This will mean that if anything does goes wrong, the equity will be split equally.
It is advisable to put together a cohabitation agreement when you move in with your partner, this can save a lot of hassle and heart ache if things go wrong. You should include who owns what property, how any joint investments will be split and arrangements for any children if the relationship dissolves. There is also the option to make the agreement legally binding to offer you greater protection.
Last of all you should ensure that both parties have an up to date Will. Unlike married or civil partnership couples, cohabiting couples do not have an automatic right to any of their partners assets should they die. A Will explaining your wishes on death will help to avoid this situation.