August 17, 2022

Better late than never : campaign to protect cohabiting couples gains momentum

Jones Myers family lawyers outline the need for long-awaited law reforms to protect cohabiting couples

As a long-standing campaigner of reforms to protect cohabiting couples, we welcome the news that a scheme proposed by the Law Commission 15 years ago could finally be introduced.

A cross-party group of MPs is calling for the proposals – which would financially support cohabiting couples who have lived together for a specific number of years or have had a child together – to be given the green light.

As the Government considers its response, the number of cohabiting couples continues to rocket from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.6 million in 2021.

While they are still the fastest growing family type in Britain, unlike married couples, they do not have any legal protection or rights if their relationship breaks down.  

These rights right span savings, income, pensions and business interests and property with mortgage applications rocketing since the Covid pandemic lockdown when more couples moved in together for practical and financial reasons.

Jones Myers has lobbied MPs at Parliament to support the campaign for reform for cohabiting couples spearheaded by Family law group Resolution.  

As a niche family law firm, we urge unmarried partners to protect themselves with a cohabitation or ‘living together’ agreement which sets out what they want to happen – both while they live together and if their relationship ends.

The agreement can clarify who owns what and in what proportion as well as how property will be divided and what will happen with personal belongings, savings, debts, pensions, and other assets on separation.

Agreements can also document how children will be supported, how to deal with bank accounts, debts, and joint purchases (such as a house or car) and pet ‘custody’ issues. 

The agreement can be drafted before or during a couple’s time together. It can also be altered – if both parties agree that the original agreement should be changed, and how.

Agreeing in writing the ‘what if’ scenarios should one partner leave, win the lottery or die can potentially save emotional and financial trauma at a later stage.

The arrangement, which is enforceable, can be set up through ‘round-table’ meetings within the collaborative process and can avoid the likelihood of cohabitees, particularly those with children, being left destitute.

It is important that the couple seek independent legal advice and disclose all financial information in the lead up to signing the agreement, which should be reviewed regularly.

We have extensive experience in drafting living together agreements and, sadly, in dealing with disputes arising from separations where there has been no such agreement.

For queries or concerns on living together agreements or family law related issues, call us at Leeds on 0113 246 0055, Harrogate on 01423 276104, or York on 01904 202550. Visit jm2023.jonesmyers.co.uk, email info@jonesmyers.co.uk or tweet us @helpwithdivorce

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