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Statistics released in November by the Office of National Statistics demonstrated that the “cohabiting couple" is the second largest family type and the fastest growing. With that in mind, we consider the “cohabitation conundrum”….

First and foremost the so-called “Common Law” marriage is a myth

As it stands, unmarried couples do not have the same legal recourse as married couples. For example, there is no automatic right to inherit a person’s estate should their long-term partner die. Additionally, in the event of relationship breakdown couples may have to rely on complex trust laws to make a claim for their proportion of the property.

Until the law changes to reflect the modern family, cohabiting couples must be aware of their arguable disadvantage in comparison with a married couple. With that in mind, it is very important the a cohabiting couple seek legal advice and look at things they can do to bolster their position:-

Cohabitation agreements

Such agreements can be drawn up by a family solicitor to determine what should happen in the event of a relationship breakdown. For example, how assets should be divided. Cohabitation agreements are not legally enforceable however will serve as a strong indication of parties wishes. It is essential that each party takes individual legal advice about such agreements to ensure no party signs such an agreement under duress.

Get a Will in place

The importance of a Will cannot be over- emphasised. This crucial, yet often overlooked document, can be the difference between the person you love receiving what you would wish and them receiving nothing. Without a Will, your Estate will be governed by Intestacy Rules meaning your Estate may end up going to persons you would not wish it to. A Will, is exactly that “your Will.”

If you are in doubt… seek Legal Advice

It is very apparent that cohabitation couples need to take individual advice to protect themselves and their assets. Whilst no person, at the beginning of a relationship predicts a breakdown, taking legal advice may provide you with the insurance and peace of mind of your position in the event that it was to breakdown.

At Ramsdens, we are accredited members of Resolution and expert family law specialists. If you wish to discuss the implications of your cohabitation and how you can put an agreement in place, please do not hesitate to contact one of our friendly family law team to arrange a free 30 minute consultation at any of our offices across West Yorkshire. Call us free on 08000 147 720