If you are in a cohabiting relationship, you will not be entitled to make the same financial claims as a married couple, if your relationship breaks down. The concept of a common law marriage is a myth, regardless of how long you have been together.

It is therefore important that you protect yourself legally by having a Declaration of Trust and/or a Co-habitation or Separation agreement in place either before you start cohabiting, or as soon as possible after.

Declaration of Trust

This sets out the proportions in which you and your partner will own your property and can also detail how the equity will be divided, if your relationship breaks down and the property must be sold.

If you are purchasing a property with your partner and are making unequal financial contributions towards the property, you should always have a Declaration of Trust drafted. If there is no Declaration of Trust, and you cannot reach agreement with your partner, you may need to go to court to fight for a fair division of your shared property.

Co-habitation Agreement

This sets out your co-habitation arrangements. It can detail how your property, investments and other assets are owned with your partner, what financial contributions you are to make during cohabitation, and what will happen on separation.

A co-habitation agreement can be particularly important if a property is in your sole name, but your partner will be, or has been making financial contributions towards it. If your relationship breaks down, your partner may attempt to assert a right to share of your property and without a co-habitation agreement in place, you may have to go to court to protect your property.

Separation Agreement

If your relationship breaks down, and you separate from your partner, you can have a separation agreement to set out your arrangements. Like a co-habitation agreement, it can detail how your property, and other assets are owned, how liabilities are to be dealt with, and what future financial contributions are to be made.

It can be particularly helpful if you have children with your partner, or joint assets that need to be dealt with.

A separation agreement can also be useful if you intend to wait two, or five years before starting divorce proceedings.

Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA)

If after a breakdown, you and your partner cannot agree how to divide a property you jointly own, or any property that you can establish an interest in (whether due to a financial contribution or otherwise) you can apply to court.  Once you issue proceedings, the court will determine what share of the property you own (if any) and decide whether, and when, it should be sold to release your share.

Financial provision for children

If you have children with your partner, you may be able to apply to the court under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 for financial provision for your children.

You will usually only be able to make such an application if your children’s other parent is wealthy. The court can make an order for provision of housing for your children, (by way of transferring or purchasing a property), for payment of a lump sum, for payment of school fees, for payment for childcare and for payment of maintenance. The court will have regard to all the circumstances of your case before determining if provision should be made.

For more information, please contact our family law team on
020 3096 7500 or info@pcm-law.net.

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