Guides & Advice

Unmarried couples who live together: How to protect your assets

Choosing to live together before marriage is pretty much the norm in today’s society, with the number of couples choosing to cohabit on the up. Although it can provide a financially practical option, many couples fail to recognise the lack of protection of their assets if they separate.

There is a common misconception that cohabiting couples are protected by “common law”, giving them the same legal rights as married couples or those in a civil partnership. However, this is not the case - there is no such thing as cohabitation law and there is actually very little legal protection when dealing with a relationship breakdown. Read more about how you can resolve disputes that may arise using mediation, collaboration or arbitration. 

However, there are ways you can protect your assets in the event that the relationship endsThis is particularly crucial if children are involved, as protecting your wealth will provide security and help safeguard their future.  Although this may be an uncomfortable thought (after all, no one wants to plan for the breakdown of a relationship!), it is important to consider all eventualities and arrange legal protection if something was to go wrong, giving you both peace of mind. 

Cohabitation agreements

To avoid unwanted conflict further down the line, drawing up cohabitation agreement (or a ‘living together agreement’ as it is sometimes referred to as) should be the top priority for all unmarried couples that are planning to move in together. As there is no such thing as cohabitation law, cohabiting couples have very few legal rights compared to married couples and therefore a cohabitation agreement provides a level of legal protection and security for both parties in the relationship.  

It is essentially a contract between a couple that neatly sets out which assets are joint assets, and which are separate. It also outlines what will happen to those assets in the event of a break-up, i.e. if you moved into a property already owned by your partner and then you both live there for a number of years and have children together, does this become a joint asset?  

Read more about the benefits of cohabitation agreements, what can, and should, be included and how they can provide you with legal protection if your relationship ends. Our helpful FAQs on cohabitation agreements also address common questions and misconceptions around living together, but not being married. 

In order for a cohabitation agreement to be legally binding, it will need to be drawn up by a lawyer – you cannot just create your own and sign it. Once everything is agreed, the contract must be signed and witnessed by both parties in order for it to hold up in court. 

Properties in a single name

When the property is in your name only, once your partner begins to contribute towards the mortgage and renovations, then they will gain a beneficial interest in the property. The level of interest does vary depending on the extent of the contributions, but the property’s equity is no longer solely yours. 

Arguments can arise over the beneficial interest in the house of each person, as legal ownership differs from beneficial ownership. This is where living together agreements can be used to solve the dispute in a straightforward and less traumatic way. 

Planning for the future

It’s clear that cohabiting is now a normal and common occurrence, so it is essential that people know the best way to safeguard their financial interests. Although there is no legal status for cohabitation law, there are ways you can give yourself a level of legal protection. From putting in place a cohabitation agreement, to preparing a will to protect your personal wealth, we’re here to help. 

The best time to put a cohabitation agreement in place is before moving in together, but it’s never too late to set one up or seek advice if you’re feeling financially vulnerable. Our team of cohabitation lawyers will support you with reaching an agreement that works for your relationship. 

For more advice on putting a cohabitation agreement in place, speak to a member of your local family law team. 

How can we help?

Our expert lawyers are ready to help you with a wide range of legal services, use the search below or call us on: 0330 024 0333

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Guides & Advice

Arbitration | Resolving relationship disputes out of court

Arbitration | Resolving relationship disputes out of court

Many couples about to embark on divorce and financial remedy proceedings are blissfully unaware that there are others forms of dispute resolution to help them resolve issues, such as who is to keep the family home or how pensions are to be divided.

An alternative route to traditional forms of financial remedy proceedings

Due to the current COVID-19 pandemic, the family courts are more stretched than they ever were previously and it’s no understatement to say that the family justice system is at breaking point. In light of this, it can take parties’ years to resolve their financial matters flowing from their divorce if they choose to go down the traditional route of financial remedy proceedings. However, there are other approaches.

Many people are completely unaware about arbitration and how it can be effectively used as an alternative ‘out of court’ method for resolving financial matters.

What is arbitration?

Arbitration is a form of formal dispute resolution that has been available for family law issues since March 2012 (although many people still don’t know this exists).

During arbitration, the parties enter into an agreement under which they appoint a suitably qualified person (an arbitrator) to adjudicate their dispute and make an award – essentially the outcome of your case is decided by a neutral arbitrator as if they were a judge in court.

What are the advantages of arbitration?
Judge
You choose your own judge

Once you’ve appointed your suitably qualified arbitrator (i.e. your judge), that same person will deal with your matter until the conclusion of your case, creating continuity.

 

Flexibility
Degree of flexibility

You have more control and flexibility over the proceedings and the decisions being made, i.e. you can have a say in respect of the time, date and venue for any hearings within the arbitration process.

Handshake
Confidentiality

Possibly one of the most favoured benefits with arbitration is that confidentiality can be assured, meaning national and regional press publications are unable to report on your case.

 

Law court
Keeping matters out of court

You can resolve issues in a non-confrontational way, that can save you time and money. Therefore, many people tend to prefer the arbitration process, as opposed to the timely, costly and significantly delayed financial court proceedings.

Is arbitration expensive?

While many wealthy and/or famous people choose to use arbitration to resolve their financial matters, it certainly isn’t exclusively for the rich and famous. Many couples have also turned to arbitration as they do not wish to have their life on hold for months (or even years!) whilst their financial remedy case makes its way through the painstakingly slow family judicial system, adding time and money.

How and when should I start arbitration?

If you are about to commence a divorce, make sure you speak to a specialist family lawyer about the alternatives to court proceedings. There are a number of helpful out-of-court ways to work together to sort out your finances that could save you a significant amount of time and money.

Guiding you through the process

Whichever route you decide to take, our experienced family lawyers will support you and equip you with the information and guidance you need to reach a solution that works for you.

If your relationship has recently broken down, and you’re finding it difficult to agree with your ex-partner regarding a financial settlement or childcare arrangements, then arbitration may allow you to reach a solution you’re both happy with, and more importantly, may save you costly court action.

To see how this process could work for you, please speak to a member of our local family law team.

Meet the team

How we can help

Children - Parenting through a separation is never easy. Our team of experts are on hand to guide you through the process of making child arrangement orders, always ensuring the long-term interests of your children remain at the heart of every child custody decision.

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International Families - Our international family law solicitors are experienced in dealing with cross-border relationships. We will work alongside lawyers in other countries to secure the best outcome for you and your family if a relationship breaks down.

Mediation, Arbitration & Collaborative Law - When a relationship ends, it doesn’t mean financial issues or child arrangements have to be settled in court. Our mediation lawyers can help you reach a solution that works for you and your ex-partner, offering you more control and flexibility over the decisions being made

Cohabitees Agreements - Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as ‘common law’, meaning many unmarried couples fail to recognise their lack of legal protection if they separate. Our cohabitation law specialists can help you prepare a legally-binding agreement to protect your financial interests.

Personal Tax Planning - From drafting your will to advising you how to structure your finances in the most tax efficient way, we aim to be your personal tax partner for life, ensuring we can design a plan that is exactly right for you and your family to protect your personal wealth.

Wills & Succession - It can be difficult to envisage a time when you’re not there to provide for your family. However, we are here to guide and support you with preparing a will so your wealth is protected for your loved ones into the future.

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