Moving in together?

If you are thinking of moving in together there are a number of issues you will need to consider:

– If you are buying a house in whose name should you buy?

Be aware that, unlike married couples, cohabitees have no financial claims against their partner and they have no financial interest in their home if it is held in their partner’s sole name.

– If you buy in your joint names you will need to consider whether you record your respective financial contributions particularly if these are unequal because otherwise you will be deemed to share the equity in the property in equal shares.

– You will need to decide whether you want to hold the property in equal shares and in such a way that upon the death of one of you it automatically passes to the survivor (known as joint tenants) or whether you wish to hold as tenants in common such that your share in the property (whether it be 50% or more or less) can be left by you in a Will to a third party.

– If you open a joint Bank account remember that you will both be jointly and severally liable for any overdraft – which means you could be paying back money squandered by your partner on shopping sprees with the girls or nights out with the lads! And you will both have an equal entitlement to any credit balance irrespective of who has paid money into the account.

– Unmarried couples generally have the same rights in the respect of children as married couples. Any child born after December 2003 if the father’s name is on the Birth Certificate he will share Parental Responsibility with the mother even after the breakdown of a relationship. This means that the child’s name cannot be changed without father’s consent and father should be consulted about major decisions to be made on behalf of the child such as schooling and health. The child cannot be removed permanently from the jurisdiction i.e. out of England and Wales without father’s consent or the leave of the Court.

– If you do not have Parental Responsibility (because you are not named on the Birth Certificate) you can register an agreement giving you Parental Responsibility or you can apply to the Court. Most applications are successful particularly where the father shows a commitment to the child.

– In all cases, father has the right to contact with the child whether he has Parental Responsibility or not and if necessary he can seek Residence should the mother be unable to properly care for the child.

– Finally, do not forget to make a Will. If you are not married, and die without a Will your Estate will automatically pass to any children that you may have and if you have no children to your parents and/or siblings and wider family. Your partner will have no interest in your Estate. Only if your partner was financial dependant upon you at the time of your death could they make a claim against your Estate.

by Deborah Allen from the King’s Lynn office