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The Fairy Story of the Common Law Wife

Once upon a time there was a lady and a man living together in unmarried bliss and then – they broke up. They were not the wise cohabiting couple, who has a Cohabitation Agreement drawn up when they start living together, and thinks about the sad but not impossible (1 out of 3 chance) consequences of a split and how they would divi-up, if the house they lived in is sold.

No, these are the foolish cohabitees who thought that the law protected them, or rather the lady, who by this time has two children with the man, believes she will be protected but soon finds out cohabitation is very different to marriage.

The number of cohabiting couples who face problems when they separate, is increasing. This is because increasing numbers of people cohabit rather than marry but as previously stated in this column and elsewhere, “THEY DO NOT HAVE THE SAME LEGAL RIGHTS AS THEIR MARRIED COUNTERPARTS”.

YouGov has recently completed a survey of more than 1,000 cohabiting couples across the UK. 35% either believe they have the same rights as married couples or didn’t know. 76% had not heard of cohabitation agreements and only 2% had a cohabitation agreement in place. 35% were unaware if the property they owned together was either beneficial joint tenants or tenants in common. If you don’t know what the difference is, research it now. The solicitor who conveyed the house into your joint names when you bought it should have gone through the different options with you and created a trust deed if required. If only one of you is the legal owner, you have a whole set of other potential problems.

Despite the huge implications of the outcomes of the different property ownership structures, the survey revealed that only 33% were given professional advice when purchasing their current home. This could make the difference in terms of thousands of pounds to either one of you if the relationship breaks down.

Whatever your circumstances, if you are living together and especially if you have children, a cohabitation agreement is essential as an insurance against a possible split. It would be wise to speak to a family specialist about this straight away.

Wednesday, March 7th, 2018 Uncategorised

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