Lauren Preedy – Head of our Divorce and Cohabitee Team

Cohabiting and Unmarried Couples

Many couples live together without getting married or entering a civil partnership.

Many couples who live together without being married also have children.

Statistically these relationships do not last as long as relationships where the couple choose to marry or enter a civil partnership.

There is no such thing as Common Law Husband/Wife. In fact, the law can be quite harsh in how it deals with financial disputes between unmarried couples.

It is increasingly common for a couple who are planning to marry to enter into a Prenuptial Agreement or for a couple who have already married to have a Post-nuptial Agreement (which essentially does the same thing – but is entered after the marriage rather than before). If a married couple separates they can also enter into a Separation Agreement.

These agreements are essentially contracts which a couple enter into with a view to limiting each other’s legal rights in the event of separation or with a view to agreeing how a separation should be conducted.

For couples who are planning to live together but not marry or enter a civil partnership or who have already started living together, it is also possible to enter into a similar arrangement called a Living Together Agreement or Cohabitation Agreement. 

Fiona Griffin

Fiona Griffin: Divorce and Cohabitee specialist

The importance of Living Together Agreements or Cohabitation Agreements

Couples who live together outside of marriage or civil partnership will not have the benefit of the wide discretion and underlying objective of fairness which underpins the law of divorce and civil partnership.

Instead separating unmarried couples must rely on a mishmash of different laws. In the case of disputes over property these laws were not designed to assist couples who live together and have children together in a property owned only by one.

We would therefore strongly urge anyone who is thinking of living together with their partner outside of marriage or is already living together with their partner outside of marriage to take legal advice as to whether it would be sensible to have a Living Together or Cohabitation Agreement. Particularly if they are thinking of buying or have bought a property and even more particularly if they are thinking of having or have children.

The best time to resolve disagreements is when they have not yet happened. Anticipating a potential problem and agreeing what will happen if that problem does materialise at a point in time when the couple get on with each other, is much much better than trying to resolve a problem when a couple are not getting on with each other.

As we also set out in our pages on Cohabitation Agreements – the exercise of preparing an agreement can also help clarify how the couple will live together – which can also assist to avoid problems which might over time undermine the relationship. Discussing what might be part of a Cohabitation Agreement might mean that a couple realised that they are not really suited to living with each other. This is not necessarily a bad thing and could avoid a lot of grief for both further along the line.

Bridget Garrood; Divorce and Cohabitee specialist

Not all problems can be avoided…

Whilst Cohabitation Agreements can be very helpful – they are not as common as they should be and couples do split and do fall into dispute.

Our approach is the same for all of our clients which is to endeavour to resolve cases through sensible negotiation in the best way.

If the case cannot be resolved through sensible agreement and court action is necessary then it is best to conduct the litigation in a sensible and principled way – endeavouring always to avoid unnecessary side disputes or distractions from trying to resolve the fundamental problem sensibly.

Our team

At Ian Walker Family Law and Mediation Solicitors we have a team of lawyers who specialise in disputes between unmarried couples. This includes not only disagreements between couples of different sexes but also between same-sex couples.

Kris Seed: Divorce and Cohabitee specialist

Our Family Finance Team is led by Lauren Preedy. Lauren is an experienced Family Law Solicitor and Collaborative Family Lawyer and the chair of the Somerset region of Resolution

Our team also includes leading LGBT+ specialist solicitor: Bridget Garrood. Bridget is also a Collaborative Family Lawyer and is a volunteer committee member for The Law Society’s LGBT+ Lawyers Division. Bridget is also a former chair of the Devon region of Resolution.

Our Finance Team also includes Fiona Griffin who is another Cohabiting specialist. Financial disputes between former cohabitees can be quite a niche area of family law and we therefore have one of the strongest teams in the South-West.

Our Private Law Children Team headed by Kris Seed also has considerable expertise in representing former cohabitees including on the breakdown of surrogacy arrangements.

If you need our assistance then please do get in touch…

 

Latest News

Arbitration: Alternative dispute resolution for all

Arbitration is a relatively recent addition to the available ways of resolving family law disputes out of court (collectively known as ‘Alternative Dispute Resolution’, or ‘ADR’ for short). It first became available for resolving financial

Read more
Some good news for family court delays

Last week the President of the Family Division Sir Andrew McFarlane spoke at a conference on the future of family practice online, organised by Resolution, the association of family lawyers. He had some interesting, and perhaps somewhat

Read more
Ten commonly asked questions about divorce

Anyone contemplating divorce will inevitably have a lot of questions to ask. As any experienced family lawyer will confirm, many of those questions crop up over and over again. This post is intended to provide quick answers to some of the m

Read more
Can I take my child to a different part of the country after I separate?

It is not uncommon that, after they separate, parents might want to move to different parts of the country, some considerable distance away from each other. This might, for example, be because the parents originate from different parts

Read more
Judge warns parties to resolve trivial issues out of court

In family law matters little issues arise all the time. This is especially so in relation to arrangements for children, as we will see in a moment, but they can also arise in relation to other matters...

Read more
We are now recognised by the Legal 500

Recognised by the Legal 500. We are very pleased to learn that we have been recognised in 2021 in edition of the Legal 500 as a leading firm for family law.

Read more
Just how much has the pandemic affected the workload of the Family Court?

Like almost every other aspect of life in this country, the family justice system has been affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. But just how busy are the courts now, six months after lockdown began?

Read more
Legal Services Board publishes report on legal costs

The Legal Services Board (’LSB’), the oversight regulator of legal services in England and Wales, has published a report examining prices for commonly used legal services. This is the third time the LSB has surveyed legal charges

Read more
We are Recruiting: Family Law Solicitor / Head of Family Mediation

We are seeking a family solicitor and mediator to join our team. Family Mediation Council or Law Society Accreditation desirable but not essential as we can provide a route to accreditation You will lead the mediation team

Read more
Is there going to be a spike in divorce cases when lockdown ends?

Ever since the country entered into lockdown there have been warnings about the effect of lockdown on relationships, and the possibility that when it finally ends there will be a spike in divorce cases. Now Citizens Advice have added their.

Read more
Is an arbitration award final?

If you are involved in divorce proceedings you may be considering using arbitration to sort out the financial settlement. Arbitration involves both parties instructing an arbitrator to decide the case for them, rather than have the matter

Read more
What happens to pensions on divorce?

It is a common scenario that on divorce one party will have significant pension provision, and the other party will have little or none. Clearly, this may be a relevant factor in any divorce settlement, but how exactly are pensions dealt wi

Read more