In today’s modern society there are numerous couples that live together ‘as man and wife’ but are not actually married.  However, despite the fact that many people believe that there is such a thing as common law marriage this is completely untrue.  This does not exist in law.  As yet, cohabitating couples do not have the same or similar rights as those of married couples, or those who have entered a civil partnership, should their relationship break down.  Indeed, they have significantly less rights.

If you are living together as a couple, or contemplating the same, then there are a number of actions you can take in order to protect yourself and your partner.  These are as follows:

1 – Consider how any property you own is held.  Most cohabitee disputes relate to how property is owned.  Therefore legal advice should be taken upon purchasing a property as there are a number of different ways it can be held.  If you decide to own property jointly as joint tenants then the right of survivorship will apply should either party die but this is not the case if you own the property as tenants in common.

2 –  Make a will.  In law a cohabitee is not classed as next of kin. Therefore it is important to make a will to ensure that any property or personal items are passed to the person of your choice in the event of your death.

3 – Entering into a cohabitation agreement – In the event that the relationship breaks down a cohabitation agreement can define how property and assets should be divided.  Whilst such agreements are not legally binding they assist the court by showing the court what the intentions of the parties were at the time the agreement was entered into.

By attending to the above when commencing cohabitation you can minimise any potential problems in the event that your relationship breaks down.

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