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Cohabiting: Live Together or Get Married?

By: Sarah Clark (ILEX) - Updated: 24 Nov 2012 | comments*Discuss
Living Together Legal Cohabiting Rights

With more than four million couples choosing to live together in England and Wales, you would have thought that there would be some degree of legal protection for cohabiting couples. 70% of first ‘partnerships’ in the UK are couples living together who are not married. The average length of a cohabitation like this is around two years.

Although many people still believe that there is such a thing as ‘common law marriage’ or that after a certain amount of time living together you have legal protection, the fact is that you really don’t have much in the way of legal rights no matter how long you live with a partner – and that includes if you have children together.

What Rights Do Cohabiting Couples Have?

There are some areas in which couples who live together are protected in law, but these are a lot less than any rights you automatically get if you marry your partner or enter a civil partnership. Firstly – if you move into your partners home and your name isn’t on the tenancy agreement or mortgage, be careful. He or she can ask you to leave at any time and you have no right to stay there. The same would possibly apply if they died. If you rent, you could even be breaking the terms of your tenancy agreement so always make sure that you involve your landlord.

The home that you move into (who it belongs to) and how you split the bills and household costs, can affect your legal rights. You need to know the score early on so that you can be prepared. If one of you owns the home, the other partner can have some legal rights, especially if you both make this clear in a cohabiting agreement. The same may apply if you pay towards the home.

Living Together Agreements?

If you are living together there are steps you can take to make sure that if you separate, or if anything happens to one of you, you and your family are taken care of.. There are ways that you can reduce the legal or financial problems that could crop up, and it’s best to get some advice from your local citizen’s advice bureau or a solicitor who deals with family law, if you want to find out how the laws apply to your own family situation.

A living together agreement has a somewhat shaky legal status but can be a good way to make sure that you both know where you stand. It’s also a good idea to draw one up with the help of a legal adviser, as the courts are more likely to honour living together agreements if there is clear evidence that the parties entered into it with legal help.

The Advice Now website has a template to give you an idea of what you should be considering, you will find this by visiting their website: static.advicenow.org.uk.

Changes In The Law?

Because many people thought that the current laws on cohabitation were not fair, the Government asked the Law Commission to review the situation in 2007. They were asked to look at the financial side of a cohabiting break up in detail. They published some recommendations but these are still under review, and even if they are accepted and made into law, it could still be a very long way away,

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