man and woman

Co-habitation

People who live together but do not marry do not acquire the same legal rights as married couples. If their home is in one party’s name only, then the other party acquires no automatic right to live there or any financial interest in it, regardless of how long they have lived together. They will have to fall back on trust and property law to resolve disputes between them over property, which can be complex and expensive.

Ursula Bagnall has a great deal of experience in handling ‘TOLATA’ claims (claims under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996) and she will be happy to advise on the merits of pursuing a claim, the likely costs and timescales.

Where there are children involved, the law does provide more protection but this is limited. Under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, the Courts have the power to order one party to provide housing for his or her children and/or in certain cases a capital settlement. The Child Support Agency will assess and in some cases collect child maintenance for children, whether their parents are married or not.

Same sex couples now have the opportunity to acquire similar rights to married couples by registering their relationship under the Civil Partnership Act 2004.

Any couple who are thinking of living together in a committed relationship should take legal advice before doing so, with a view to entering a co-habitation agreement. This is a legal document which is intended to define so far as possible your financial arrangements and how they will be separated in the event that the relationship should break down.

It is important if two people intend to purchase a home together, whether or not they are co-habiting, that their respective shares in the property and their contributions to its acquisition are defined at the outset. Even if the arrangement is that one partner intends to live in the other's home and contribute to the outgoings, they should both ensure that they are aware of their respective legal positions concerning the property.

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