Living Together: Some tips
- Before you start a new relationship it is sensible to plan your finances, and to consider what will happen if you ever split up, this may seem unlikely now, but it may well happen. It is even more sensible to seek legal advice and have a legal document called a Living Together or Cohabitation Agreement drawn up that sets down what you have agreed.
Anything we should know?
Yes, unlike married couples or civil partners co habiting couples do not have special rights to apply to the court on the break up of that relationship. There is no such thing as a common law husband or wife in our legal system. You are either married or a civil partner and you qualify to allow the court to divide your assets fairly, or you are not and the court has no power to divide your assets except any rights that you both may have generally.
Some tips if you do not have a living together agreement
- Be very wary of any situation where the house is in one name only. No matter how much you contribute financially, unless they are prepared to be fair with you, or you can with the help of solicitors negotiate a fair deal for you; you will have to persuade a court either that it was intended and agreed that you have an interest in the property. If they cannot find an expressed or written agreement, the court can depending on the circumstances, imply such an intention if they feel that you have acted to your detriment in making the contribution and you would not have made it if you had known you would have no interest in the property.There is no entitlement for the court to decide just because you bought the property together, or both called it your home that there was such an intention for you to have an interest.
- Even if the court decide that you have an interest in the absence of there being evidence of an agreement as to what that is, they will look at all the surrounding circumstances to decide the extent of your interest.
What can I do about this?
- If the property is being bought in one name only have a Declaration of Trust document prepared which sets out what your interests are in the house. It may seem an unnecessary expense , but it is not and it is far cheaper than a contested court case, or even seeing a solicitor and having them try negotiate something for you after you have separated.
- Do not have joint bank accounts, credit card accounts or debts in joint names as you are both liable for the debt, if they disappear or cannot pay it back you will be left to pay it. Some bank will not freeze accounts at the request of one of you and debts can spiral without you being able to do anything to prevent it.
- Make a will, you may not be able to benefit whom you wish if you do not, if the house is yours they may have no rights to continue to live there after you die see our will page
- Be aware that if you have lived together as husband and wife for 2 years or more, or they are financially dependent on you at your death regardless of the length of the relationship they will have a potential claim against your estate.
- If you have children together then claims can be made to the court under the Children Act 1989
- For a capital sum for the child, and or
- For a property to be placed in trust for the child for them and the other parent to live in as their home, or
- For money to be provided for a home to be bought as the child’s home
If a home on trust for the child is provided then it will be sold when the child typically completes their full time education at which time the sum invested is returned to the parent who provided it
- The CSA will normally work out and enforce the payment of maintenance for the child if you and the children live in the UK, and the children are below the age of 19 or are in full time ( 12 or more hours a week) education or training up to 19.
- You can make agreements yourself for maintenance for the children, which you can have set out in a court consent order, but currently you can enforce this only for a period of 12 month from the date of the order, unless they agree to stick with it, they can withdraw the consent at any time after the 12 month date by simply sending a written notice to you to this effect.
- If you work abroad, or the child lives abroad, or the child is 19 or over and in full time education then you can make a court application for maintenance to be paid.
- You can agree how much will be paid and ask the court to make a consent order, this order will be enforceable until the date when it has been agreed the order will cease, or until the order is varied by the court.
What is a Living Together Agreement?
- Living together agreements are legal documents.
- You both need your own solicitor to advise on it before it is signed.
- There should be no compulsion about signing them; they do need to be a genuine agreement.
- There has yet to be a case in the courts concerning enforcement of the agreements, this seems to suggest that they are generally accepted to be enforceable, or at the very least they are a very relevant consideration for the court.
- We would always recommend that so far as property is concerned that a Declaration of Trust document is prepared as this is undoubtedly enforceable by the courts.
Anything else I should know?
It is not all bad news,
- As if you marry then the financial claims that can be made against your property and you are considerably more.
- Also on a divorce it is not uncommon for you to be obliged not only to pay maintenance to your ex, but also for them to receive a generous financial settlement funded by your assets including your pension, even if your marriage has been short lived. This is particularly true if you have lived together for a long time, and marry, then you do run the risk of the court adding the length of your cohabitation to the marriage, and the claims against you being on the basis of a long marriage over the full length of your relationship, including your marriage, and not the brief time you have been married.
- For some people, particularly those with significant income and or assets, being single may be the safest way to proceed, with a living together agreement of course.
I want to get married; can I do anything to protect myself and my property?
Yes, consider a pre martial agreement in the family law category. see our web page for more information.