Our skilled Leeds, Harrogate and York based family law specialists are adept at dealing with issues arising from cohabitation – whether to advise you on your rights before you cohabit or in the event your relationship has broken down.

Contrary to popular belief, common law marriage is a myth – in fact, there is no such legal status in England and Wales for cohabiting couples.

If you live together the law does not offer you the protection a married person would have on the breakdown of your relationship. There is no legislation to allow you to seek a share of savings, pensions or business interests of your former partner. You are also not entitled to claim maintenance for yourself.

In cases where your home is jointly owned, the deeds, if in both partners’ names, should reflect the proportion you ought to receive on a sale. It is important before you buy your home that you receive the relevant advice as to how the proceeds should be divided. If you omit to do this, being awarded a share in any property depends on your ability to establish ownership, based on either a financial contribution or a common intention – a complex area of law.

For example, if a woman lived with her partner for twenty years and brought up their children in his house, she cannot expect any maintenance for herself. Nor will she share in the property if she has not paid for it – either directly or by making a contribution to the mortgage – unless she can prove it was agreed otherwise. Even if she did make some financial contribution, establishing ownership is notoriously difficult and costly. A parent, whether married or not, will always have a duty to financially maintain their children.

A cohabitation agreement can be drafted prior to, and during the period you live together, to record who owns what at the outset – and how any jointly acquired property will be divided in the event of a relationship breakdown. It helps to provide a degree of security, while encouraging you to think clearly about what would happen should the relationship end.

How Jones Myers can help

Jones Myers family law experts provide advice and assistance for parties about to move in together, or when the relationship has ended, to help ensure their interests are best served. This guidance can help to avoid what can be stressful and expensive litigation.

This might include working to reach agreement on the division of jointly-owned properties or where the family home is in one partner’s name.

We also help our clients to decide whether a cohabitation agreement is suitable and, if so, what it should cover – for example who will pay the mortgage, household bills, school fees and other expenses relating to children.

Next steps

To make an appointment or enquiry with one of our divorce and separation team, by telephone or email, please contact Elizabeth Bell, Andrew Fox or Neil Dring. All contacts will, of course, be treated in the strictest confidence. Alternatively, if you would prefer, please complete our enquiry form below.

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