Despite being the fastest-growing family type in the UK, there are still millions of cohabiting couples who do not realise that their relationship does not automatically offer them the same legal protections as marriage or civil partnership – particularly on matters involving their property, inheritance and finances.
Experts suggest it is time for new laws to be established which ensure these individuals have similar rights as married or civil- partnered couples when relationships come to an end.
What can happen when cohabiting couples split?
Despite the prevalence of myths about ‘common law’ marriage, the current laws fail to formally and automatically recognise cohabitation.
As a result, unmarried men and women can be significantly disadvantaged when their relationships break down.
With an ever-increasing number of couples deciding to live together rather than marry each other, many think it is time for the Government to consider granting further legal rights that protect these individuals.
Solicitors have weighed in on this debate, expressing strong support for formalising such unions.
They say this would eliminate uncertainty about the rights that cohabiting couples have and ensure they enjoy parity with married and civil-partnered couples.
To illustrate how pervasive this misconception has become, a survey conducted last year found almost half (49%) of respondents believed living together was equivalent under the law to marriage.
As a result, complex property disputes are unfortunately a common issue that arises at the end of such relationships – particularly if one partner solely owns assets like homes or other property investments.
Regardless of whether any laws will be introduced, cohabiting couples need to understand their rights and ensure that they have other protections in place.
To ensure the financial well-being of all parties involved in these types of unions, there are steps that cohabiting couples can take now to protect their finances and assets, such as creating a cohabitation agreement.
To find out how a cohabitation agreement can protect you in the event that your relationship breaksdown, please get in touch.