February 15, 2022

We’re moving in together: who owns what legally?

This week love is in the air as romance takes centre stage following Valentine’s Day. 

A flurry of marriage proposals and more couples pledging to move in together will have seen excitement levels and hopes for future happiness soar to new heights.

Amid the flurry of celebrations, it’s also important to consider the practical and legal implications of these momentous decisions.  

The number of cohabiting couples in the UK has rocketed 137%, from around 1.5 million in 1996 to around 3.5 million in 2020, when the latest figures were released.

While comprising the fastest growing type of family, partners who live together have less legal protection should they separate, or if one of them dies, than couples who are married or in civil partnerships.

This lack of protection extends to key areas such as savings, income, pensions, business interests – and, in particular, property.

We strongly recommend that unmarried partners consider a cohabitation or ‘living together’ agreement to help them decide what happens while they are together and if they split up.

The agreement sets out who owns what and in what proportion, how property will be divided along with what will happen with personal belongings, savings, debts, pensions and other assets on separation.

Documenting how children will be supported, it outlines how to deal with bank accounts, debts and joint purchases such as a house or car, along with pet ‘custody’ issues.

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

While it may not be considered romantic to agree the ‘what if’ scenarios should one partner leave, win the lottery or die, this safeguard can potentially save emotional and financial trauma at a later stage.

The arrangement, which is enforceable, can be set up through virtual “round-table” meetings within the collaborative process and can reduce the likelihood of cohabitees being left destitute.

It is important that each party seeks independent legal advice and discloses all financial information in the lead up to signing the agreement, which should be reviewed regularly.

Jones Myers has extensive experience in drafting cohabitation agreements and, sadly, in dealing with disputes arising from separations where there has been no such agreement.

Couples who are planning their weddings this year may want to consider a pre-nup, a widely accepted contract to set out how their finances would be divided should their marriage breakdown.

More advice and information on pre-nups can be found in our recent blog.

For queries or concerns on cohabitation agreements, pre-nups, post-nups 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    authors is rewarding. Please use the following credit line in your project:

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