Today the Government have announced there will be new legislation in divorce law. This new law will update the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 in due course. It will mean that, in the future when the legislation comes into force, divorcing couples will no longer have to ‘blame’ each other for the breakdown of their marriage. It is hoped the new law will help reduce family conflict.
The need for expert legal advice does not always arise once your relationship has broken down.
A formal arrangement at the start of your relationship can avoid the risk of unresolved issues if unfortunately the relationship breaks down at a later stage. Dealing with properties and personal assets can become stressful if both parties are not on the same page. Advice from Hughes Paddison can help to deal with relationship planning fairly, constructively and as speedily as possible.
By entering into an agreement when both parties to the relationship are on good terms, it is more likely that the agreement reached is objective and fair, rather than trying to reach a resolution once the relationship has ended and emotions are high.
With the number of cohabiting couples continuing to rise, it is becoming more and more common to enter into a Co-habitation Agreement (or Deed). This can also be called a Living Together Agreement.
When you deal with Hughes Paddison you can be assured that you will be treated professionally and personably. Our specialist lawyers will work with you to understand your particular circumstances, bringing a pragmatic and cost effective approach to our advice. We will do our utmost to ensure that you are as prepared as you can be for different eventualities. We will help you understand all of the options that are available to you. We may suggest various factors to be taken into account which you may not have considered. We will communicate with the other party in a non-offensive, non-contentious manner.
Entering into an arrangement, contract, Deed or agreement does not need to be a contentious proposal but rather a way in which you are both able to design what you would like to achieve in the event that the relationship breaks down, to avoid any nasty surprises in the future.
Co-Habitation Agreements tend to include:
- who the property you live in is owned by;
- how property outgoings (such as mortgage payments, maintenance and improvement works) will be funded and whether this would affect ownership;
- who will pay the household outgoings;
- what furniture and other items in the property each party owns and how joint gifts should be divided in the event of separation;
- what would happen if you decided to separate i.e. who would move out and when?;
- if the property is owned by one party, what the arrangements would be in the event of the death of that person; and
- any other agreement that you feel is relevant to your particular circumstances.
Some frequently asked questions and answers about Co-habitation Agreements are set out below.
Frequently asked questions
What happens if we don’t have a Co-habitation Agreement?
There is no legal requirement to have a written agreement when you live together. If this is the case, at the end of your relationship the law says that you keep the assets that you own in your name, your former partner keeps the assets that they own in their name, and any jointly owned assets should be shared between you. Complications and disputes can arise when you cannot agree how to sort out your jointly owned assets or when either you or your former partner believes you are entitled to the other person’s sole assets as a result of your relationship or contributions made in the course of the relationship. Our experienced Family Team can work with you to draft a bespoke Co-habitation Agreement for your individual circumstances and agree this with your partner or their solicitors.
Why should my former partner be entitled to any of my assets if we are not married?
The starting point is that they are not entitled to assets in your name however where there is a dispute about property, the Court has broad powers under the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA) and can make a declaration about property rights according to principles of Trust Law. Where there is no written agreement and one of the parties claims a substantial and significant contribution to the purchase, upkeep or improvement of the property then the Court can make a determination that there is a beneficial interest in the property. A Co-habitation Agreement at the outset of your relationship can make your intentions clear and seek to prevent any such claims at a later date.
What about common law marriage?
Despite popular belief, common law marriage does not exist in England and Wales. Although the issues that arise when a cohabiting relationship ends are very much the same as when a marriage ends, the law treats these very differently. You should therefore think carefully about how you arrange your finances with your partner and consider having a Co-habitation Agreement to set out your intentions during your relationship and in the event your relationship breaks down so you are both on the same page.
Call 01242 574244 or contact us to find out how we can help with your cohabitation or living together agreement.