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Common Misconceptions...

December 2016

about co-habiting relationships

MYTH #1:

If we are cohabiting, we must be common-law husband and wife or partners.

There is no concept in English law of being a common-law husband and wife or partner.  Individuals are legally classed as either single (whether by the ending of a relationship or death of a partner),  married, or civil partners. 

MYTH #2:

If we are cohabiting and then separate, we can make claims against each other as if we were husband and wife or common-law partners.

Not true.  Cohabiting couples have less legal rights against one another than married couples.  A married couple can, upon separation, claim against one another for income, capital, property and pension.  Cohabiting couples can only claim against one another for property (whether or not in sole or joint names) and any capital considered to be joint.  There can be no claims for ‘spousal’ maintenance or pensions.

MYTH #3:

If we have lived together for more than two years we have more legal rights than a couple who have lived together for less time.

This is incorrect.  The period of cohabitation does not improve the legal claims that exist, which remain limited to property and capital regardless of the number of years spent together.  The number of years together may only strengthen the potential claims against capital or property, but this is not a certainty. 

MYTH #4:

Despite living together, the property is in my sole name and so my ex-partner cannot make a claim against it.

If each individual has been contributing to household outgoings, capital expenditure or other substantive expenses on the property than this gives rise to the possibility of a beneficial claim against the equity, even if there is no obvious legal claim because the property is in one individual’s name.  Conversely, if during cohabitation only one of the couple has paid the household outgoings throughout and the other has made no financial contribution, claims by the non-payer may be extremely limited regardless of the years spent together.  

MYTH #5:

We were not married and so I do not have to pay child maintenance for our children now that we are separated.

Child maintenance is a statutory obligation of a biological parent.  The legal status of the parents’ relationship is not relevant and child maintenance will remain payable by the non-resident parent.

MYTH #6:

As we are not marrying, we cannot regularise our relationship with a ‘pre-nup’ in the event of separation.

Couples contemplating cohabitation can enter into a Cohabitation Agreement.  This allows the couple to record who owns what, whether the cohabitation is intended to impact on that ownership, what will be shared, what will not be shared, who will make what financial contribution, what happens to any jointly-acquired assets during the relationship and any other issues they wish to cover.  They are a very sensible way of trying to manage a possible future separation.

It is always essential to take legal advice if you are contemplating living together or facing separation and please contact Georgina Rayment for advice specific to your circumstances.

Georgina Rayment

Senior Associate and Mediator

e grayment@prettys.co.uk

t 01473 298344

Georgina Rayment

Senior Associate and Mediator

e grayment@prettys.co.uk

t 01473 298344

 

 

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