27 Jul 2020
As we embark upon a gradual exit following lockdown, many are looking about their lives and activities with caution. For some, that may mean considering divorce. Partner Nicola Wilburn-Shaw has some advice.Read more
Despite what many believe – and around 25 percent of people living together think they have the same legal protection as married couples, according to research by the Co-op – there is no status in English law as a common-law spouse or partner.
Yet there remain many myths about the claims that can be made by the so-called common law husband or wife if their relationship ends. In fact, the legal claims that can be made at the end of a cohabiting relationship are very limited compared to a couple who are married or in a civil partnership.
The main concern of most people is: can their partner make a claim on their property if they move in together? The simple answer is no, they can’t, as long as the house owner does not allow the other to make significant financial contributions to the property, such as funding a new kitchen or paying the mortgage. And even in those scenarios the money usually needs to have been paid with the intention of that person acquiring an interest in the house if they make those payments. You should avoid taking financial contributions of this nature from your partner if you do not want them to have a claim on the property.
In England and Wales there is no law which would enable one cohabitee to claim maintenance from the other for their benefit (as opposed to for the benefit of their child) if their relationship ends. The law is different in Scotland, although the circumstances where this can be done successfully are limited.
There is also no law which would enable one cohabitee to makes claims against the other cohabitee’s pensions, savings, investments, business interests etc at the end of a relationship as of right. They would have to show that they had contributed to that asset financially and that it was agreed that they would have an interest in it for their claim to be successful.
As the law stands at present, it is unlikely that one cohabitee would be able to make a successful financial claim against the other if their relationship ends, unless they have made significant financial contributions towards those assets. However, if you are planning to cohabit or have recently started cohabiting you may want to consider having a Cohabitation Agreement, which sets out what claims either of you has against the other, if any, if the relationship ends. This will provide you both with certainty and avoid the possibility of you having to defend claims against your assets if your relationship ends.
There are reports in the media that the UK lock down has prompted some couples to take the step of living together, a step which they might not have taken quite so quickly or even not at all if lock down had not been necessary. We all hope that as these couples take their relationships to the next level, doing so will bring them great happiness. However, if it does not work out, there could be legal consequences for them on top of a broken heart.
"The legal claims that can be made at the end of a cohabiting relationship are very limited compared to a couple who are married or in a civil partnership."
Fiona Wood, partner
7 Jun 2020
The new "no-fault" legislation aims to overhaul divorce law and reduce family conflict, and comes following overwhelming pressure from senior judges, lawyers, politicians and members of the public amid calls for reform. Parallel changes would be made to the law governing the dissolution of a civil partnership. Managing Partner Amanda McAlister explains.Read more
5 Jun 2020
There is a lot of speculation in the media at present about the impact that lockdown is having on our economy. For those divorcing, the potential impact on the housing market is particularly difficult, given that the main asset owned by most couples is their house. Partner Fiona Wood examines the issues.Read more
Book an appointment
Book your appointment here. Your first consultation is free.
We will be in contact shortly to arrange your appointmentArrange another appointment?