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Cohabitation and the Law

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There are over 3 million cohabiting couples in the UK, double the amount there was 20 years ago and yet many couples do not realise the law offers them no protection.

If a couple that are married for 20 years separate, either party has the right to make a claim against the other for financial provision including maintenance, a lump sum payment, property and pension

However, if a couple cohabit for 20 years and then separate, they have no right to seek maintenance from the other party or obtain a share of their pension.  Their only rights are against jointly owned property.  So if the property is owned by one party, the other person would have no claims against the property, even if they have lived in it for many years.  Despite more and more people choosing to cohabit rather than marry, the law has not been updated to cover this situation.  New legislation is proposed in the form of the Cohabitation Rights Bill, but at the moment there is no indication whether the Bill will actually become law.

So without a law to protect them, how can cohabitating couples protect their financial interests?  One way is by entering into a cohabitation or “living together” agreement.  This can detail how any jointly owned and solely owned property is dealt with and also what contributions each party are to make to any outgoings relating to the property and whether that will have an impact on the shares they each have in the property.  For instance, if one party pays for a new kitchen does that increase their share?  It can also include extra details about paying off debts, paying for children’s expenses and how any joint account is used.

Cohabiting couples should also enter into wills, as if they die without making a will, their estate will not pass to their partner under the intestacy rules as it would if they were married.  This is particularly important when there is a property involved.  It is difficult enough to lose your partner, but to then find out you have to sell your home, because they did not make a will leaving the property to you is utterly heart-breaking.

BakerLaw’s experienced lawyers can advise cohabiting couple on their rights and how to protect their financial interests using cohabitation agreements and wills. Call the office on 01252 733770 or send an email to to find out more and make an appointment.