Pitfalls in the Law for Unmarried Couples and How to Protect Yourself

At Blanchards Law we can advise you both at the start of your cohabitation, by drawing up an agreement between you, but also at the end, when you are thinking of separating.

  • The law around unmarried couples is still a grey area and you need to ensure that you take legal advice before you take any major steps, like moving out of your home, especially if you have children.
  • If you are just embarking upon your relationship, you should think about defining your financial arrangements, and this is most easily done by entering into a ‘Living Together Agreement’. It would cover such matters as:
  • In what shares any properties are owned
  • When the properties will be sold
  • Who pays what household bills
  • What happens when you have children
  • What your Wills will say
  • Who owns what in the house
  • Who pays school fees
  • How you will pay for repairs or redecoration on the property
  • What if one of you loses your job
  • What happens if one of you falls ill and can’t work
  • You could also name your partner as a beneficiary of any life or pension policies you may have. This is particularly important if you have children as cohabiting partners can’t apply for pension sharing orders, as divorcing couples can.
  • You might think it somewhat unromantic and a bit over the top to enter into something like this when you’ve just moved in with someone, but it will prevent a great deal of heartache and anguish later on down the line if you break up. Having a neutral third party to help with your discussions, such as an independent mediator, might help. We can assist with that as we have our own mediation service here.
  • If you own your property in both of your names, then you will be in the safest position as the law presumes that each of you owns 50%.
  • Unmarried couples have tax advantages over married people.  A married couple can only claim one Private Residence Relief (PRR) for Capital Gains Tax (CGT) as they are only allowed to have one home. Cohabiting partners are treated as single people and each have use their individual PRR, therefore may not have to pay CGT if they own more than one property and sell one.
  • But what happens when the house is owned in the sole name of one partner, and there is nothing in writing about who pays for what.  That is the best position for the homeowner  as the law says it’s his or her property. How can the other partner establish any cohabitation rights in that property? The court here will look at what your intentions were when you bought the house, and why you bought it. Also the welfare of any children that you have together will be considered and their interests might dictate that the home should not be sold until they are older. If it is affordable, the resident parent may then be able to stay in the house until the children are 18.
  • Children of your relationship are always entitled to child maintenance from the absent parent, whether you are in a married or unmarried couple. Generally however the parent with whom the children live after the breakdown of a cohabitation relationship, is not entitled to any maintenance in her own right, although there is limited availability where the non-resident parent is very wealthy.
  • Ultimately you can get married. The time together as a cohabiting couple will be counted by the court so as to lengthen the period of the marriage, thereby increasing the amount of the possible claim.

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