September 17, 2019

‘To have, hold and protect’ – without tying the knot

Studies and statistics relating to the continuing decline in marriage rates in the UK and US continue to reinforce how the institution of wedlock is not a panacea for every couple.  

Research from Cornell University, an Ivy League research establishment, has cited reasons for the distinct drop which include a shortage of “economically-attractive” men – and how unmarried couples with children are less committed to their partners.

Closer to home, while official figures in 2018 revealed that heterosexual marriages in England and Wales had plummeted to a record low, cohabiting couple families remain the fastest growing and second largest family type in the UK.

Those who want to avoid rushing into marriage opt to live together first while others who prefer a less formal arrangement, live together.

However, while married couples are entitled to legal rights regarding property, savings, income, pensions or business interests, there is no legal protection for cohabiteees if their relationship breaks down.     

With an unprecedented six million couples cohabiting in the UK, heart-wrenching consequences of failed relationships, which include being left homeless and penniless, can be substantially minimised if they set in place a cohabitation agreement.

The contract, which protects couples and spells out what will happen when one partner dies or if they split up, can avoid complex and avoid costly legal disputes on separation.   

It sets out an agreement as to who owns what and in what proportion, and how property, its contents, personal belongings, savings and other assets can be divided – and if a surviving partner can stay in the property.

The document also covers how children will be looked after, including those from previous relationships, as well as how to deal with bank accounts, debts and joint purchases, such as a car.

We also strongly advise all couples – whether married or cohabiting – to draw up a will, and review it regularly, to ensure that their final wishes are met and that they do not leave their loved ones financially and emotionally bereft.

Putting these small steps in place goes a long way to provide protection, reassurance and peace of mind.

For queries about cohabitation agreements or divorce related issues call our Leeds office 0113 246 0055, our Harrogate office 01423 276104, or our York office on 01904 202550. Visit, email or tweet us @helpwithdivorce