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Living together after lockdown: What you need to know legally

Stowe Family Law LLP

When Boris Johnson ordered the country into lockdown back in March, the government’s advice to people in relationships asked them to move in together immediately or be prepared not to see one another for the foreseeable future.

Some couples opted for a speedy lockdown break-up; some chose to live apart and continue their relationship online; others decided to move in together much quicker than intended.

Don’t get caught out, know your legal rights

New cohabiting couples have added to the 3.5+ million unmarried partners living together in the UK (ONS), many of whom are totally unaware of their limited legal protection should the relationship break down, as they believe that being a ‘common-law’ wife/husband offers them some legal rights.

Here’s the truth: unmarried couples living together do NOT carry the same rights as married couples or those in civil partnerships.

  • Cohabitants have very little or no legal protection when it comes to the end of a relationship
  • There’s no chance of sharing property unless it’s jointly owned. If the property is in one partner’s name (on the title deeds), the prospects of obtaining a share of this asset are greatly reduced if you’re not married
  • The weaker financial party forfeits the right to claim maintenance from the other partner who’s in a stronger financial position
  • Pension rights cannot be shared

The first steps you should take as a cohabiting couple

Even with lockdown measures beginning to ease, you may have decided on making your new living arrangements permanent.

This would be the ideal time to have an honest conversation with your partner about the financial arrangements between both of you. For example, work out exactly what each of you will contribute towards the rent/mortgage and other bills.

It may also be worthwhile talking about the ownership of the property - will it remain in one person’s name?

An upfront, honest discussion along with some expert advice from a family lawyer can potentially save heartache and unwanted financial stress in the future.

Stowe Family Law can discuss your legal options and help you achieve the best outcome. Get in touch with the Birmingham office today to find out more.

Three important legal considerations for cohabiting couples

  1. Cohabitation agreement

A cohabitation agreement provides unmarried couples with the clarity and legal understanding that they need.

The cohabitation agreement can be drawn up at any time during a relationship – it’s not limited to when you first move in together.

A cohabitation agreement covers:

  • Property ownership
  • How rent, mortgage or other household bills are paid
  • Where you stand on joint accounts or pensions
  • How household items are divided in the event of separation
  • Trivial items such as who does the cleaning will not be included

    2. Declaration of Trust

A declaration of trust confirms the proportions of property ownership between two or more individuals.

A declaration of trust records the financial contributions all parties have made towards its purchase. Regardless of financial contributions, it can also reflect how the net value or equity of the property would be divided in the event of a future sale.

The advantage of a obtaining a declaration of trust is that it can help avoid costly disputes if the relationship comes to an end.

        3. Make a will

It’s also very important to write a valid will. Under the rules of intestacy, if one of you were to pass away without leaving a will, the surviving unmarried cohabitee would not inherit anything.

Get in touch

If you need expert legal advice on living together after lockdown, please feel free to contact the Stowe Family Law office in Birmingham to speak to one of our specialist cohabitation lawyers.