Spouses have financial claims against the other in the event of Divorce, in terms of property/savings, income and pensions, and the Courts have a range of powers to deal with these claims.
At present however, unmarried couples who live together do not have the same rights. At this point in time, cohabitees have no automatic financial claims upon their partners in the event of the relationship breaking down – no claims on income, pensions, or savings, even if they have lived together for several years and raised children.
Claims can arise, however, in respect of property, even if it is only owned in one name. In those circumstances, the non-owner might be able to make a claim if they have invested money in it – ie, through mortgage repayments or home improvements – or on the basis that the owner had previously assured them of a share or interest in it.
Should this dispute go to Court, the Judge would look at all the evidence, to try and determine what their intentions had been, and whether there had been any financial contributions which ought to be recognised. Such cases can be complicated and expensive.
For silver separators (a married man or woman who decides to divorce or separate in later life) entering new relationships, this can cause alarm – after years of hard work to buy the property, perhaps with the intention of leaving it as inheritance to children and grandchildren – the last thing that they, and their family, will want, is a Court ‘battle’ over it.
This is where a Cohabitation Agreement can be useful. The Agreement, like a ‘prenup’, records financial wishes and intentions, and can look to ‘ring-fence’ solely owned assets, as well as provide a framework to sort out everyday matters such as the payment of bills.
It is not possible to guarantee that the Cohabitation Agreement will be completely binding and upheld in its entirety by a Court, but they are becoming more widespread, and should be given serious weight if the usual requirements for both partners to take legal advice etc., have been met.
Whilst proposing a Cohabitation Agreement may seem unromantic, it is vital that unmarried couples try to protect themselves, and this should give partners – and their families – some peace of mind.
This article aims to supply general information, but it is not intended to constitute advice. Every effort is made to ensure that the law referred to is correct at the date of publication and to avoid any statement which may mislead. However, no duty of care is assumed to any person and no liability is accepted for any omission or inaccuracy. Always seek advice specific to your own circumstances. Fraser Dawbarns LLP are always happy to provide such advice.
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