Although Tracey Miller Family Law is known as one of the best divorce lawyers in Liverpool, we also help people who aren’t married or in a civil partnership.
Cohabitation is becoming more and more popular in the UK. However, not every unmarried couple are aware of their rights and protections under the law. More importantly, they’re not aware that cohabiting couples don’t necessarily have the same legal rights as people in a marriage or civil partnership – especially when it comes to separation.
This is why our team of family law solicitors Liverpool are dedicated to providing trustworthy, practical assistance to cohabiting couples. We can help you draw up a cohabitation agreement, make child custody arrangements and everything in between.
If you have a question about cohabitation or are facing separation, we’re here for you.
Get in touch to arrange your free, no-obligation and no time limit consultation. We’ll talk through your situation and let you know the best way forward.
What is cohabitation?
Cohabitation is simply an arrangement where two people live together in a romantic relationship, but aren’t married. It’s on the rise in the UK, with millions of people choosing to move in together without tying the knot.
Cohabiting couples may live together for years or even decades. They may have children together and buy property in joint names. But despite this, they don’t have the same legal rights and protections as married people, particularly when it comes to separation.
One of the key differences is what happens to money and property when a cohabiting couple separate. This is dealt with differently to divorce, where there are laws in place to determine how assets should be divided.
However, matters such as residence and contact for children are covered under the law, following both separation and divorce. If cohabitees can’t reach an informal arrangement over child custody, the courts can step in.
Is there such a thing as common law marriage?
No, there is no such thing as common law marriage. It’s a popular misconception that cohabitees are ‘common law spouses’ who have the same or similar rights as people who are married or in a civil partnership. But this isn’t the case, and it can catch people out.
Our job as trusted family solicitors in Liverpool is to set the record straight on matters to do with cohabitation. We aim to bust myths and clear up misconceptions. Ultimately, we’re here to provide you with reliable, straightforward advice so you can make informed decisions.
With the help of a trained legal professional, you can protect yourself and your family in case of a separation.
Differences in rights between cohabiting and married couples
There are a number of important differences between how the law treats cohabiting couples, compared to people in a marriage or civil partnership.
- Inheritance. If one person in a cohabiting couple dies, their assets will be passed to whoever is named on their will. But if there is no will, their assets don’t automatically go to their surviving partner. They could be passed to another family member. However, their partner will have the right to make a claim if they can demonstrate that they’ve been effectively living as husband and wife, or civil partners.
- Financial support. If a married couple gets divorced, each party has a right to apply to a court for maintenance or financial support. This doesn’t happen with cohabitees, who have no legal obligation to support each other after separation. If they have children together, they may have a legal obligation to pay child maintenance, depending on the respective incomes of the parents and also the time spent living with each parent. An online calculator on the CMS (Child Maintenance Support) website, could give you some idea of the legal entitlement.
- Bank account access. Cohabiting couples don’t have the right to access their partner’s bank account if they die. Whereas married couples may be given permission to withdraw the remaining balance in the case of a spouse’s death.
- Pension sharing. Unmarried people can’t apply for pension sharing orders, unlike people who are married or in a civil partnership.
- Court involvement. A cohabiting couple can simply walk away from the relationship if it ends. There is no need for legal proceedings (unless there are unresolved children’s matters). But to end a marriage, a couple needs to go through official divorce proceedings. This inevitably means court involvement, so that the marriage or civil partnership can be legally dissolved.
- Matrimonial home rights. During divorce, married people have the right to live in the matrimonial home until the divorce is officially granted. But this isn’t the case for cohabitees, especially for the partners of tenants. Arrangements around property and home rights is very different, and can be complicated to sort out.
Call today for a free and confidential no-obligation chat on 0151 515 3036.
Family law solicitors in Liverpool – how we can help
Here at Tracey Miller Family Law, we don’t just do divorce. Our expert family law solicitors can support you will all the legal aspects of ending a relationship. We’re here for you whatever your circumstances, whether you’re getting a divorce, ending a civil partnership or separating as a cohabiting couple.
We’ll work closely with you to find out more about your situation. You can trust us to provide practical and reliable legal advice on your financial position, your assets, and the arrangements for your children.
Our top divorce lawyers in Liverpool specialise in all aspects of family law, including:
- Judicial Separation
- Children’s Matters
- Financial Matters
- Civil Partnerships
- Pre-Nuptial/Cohabitation Agreements
- International Family Law
When it comes to cohabitation, we can help with drawing up cohabitation agreements. We can help you navigate financial issues, such as dividing assets after separation and what to do about shared property. If there’s a dispute, we’ll be in your corner and aim to find the best resolution for the good of your family.
Crucially, we can also provide advice on children’s matters, such as residence and contact. If you and your ex-partner can’t make an informal arrangement between you on child custody, it may be necessary to involve the courts. But don’t worry, our highly experienced legal team will be right by your side every step of the way.
What is a cohabitation agreement?
One of the most important legal protections for unmarried couples is a cohabitation agreement. This is a legal document which sets out what will happen to finances, property and children if you should separate.
Think of it like a prenuptial agreement, which is drawn up before marriage just in case the relationship should end in divorce.
A cohabitation agreement covers things like:
- What will happen to jointly owned property
- Who will be responsible for household expenses – how will debts and financial responsibilities be divided?
- Child residence and contact, including co-parenting arrangements
- What will happen to property you acquire after moving in together
- How money in joint bank accounts will be divided.
Why get a cohabitation agreement?
As one of the top divorce lawyers in Liverpool, we’ve drawn up countless prenuptial agreements for couples about to tie the knot. And postnuptial agreements too, which are also designed to protect assets and set out arrangements in case of divorce.
But cohabitation agreements can be just as important. In fact, they may be even more crucial than prenuptial agreements because cohabiting couples have fewer rights and protections under the law than married people.
Despite this, many couples don’t have a cohabitation agreement in place. They either never get round to it, think they don’t need one or feel it could damage their relationship to raise the prospect of splitting up.
But actually, making such an agreement can be seen as a thoughtful and caring gesture. It can be a way to:
- Protect each other
- Plan for the future – whatever may happen
- Respect each other’s rights and property
- Put arrangements in place for your children
- Help to prevent unpleasant arguments or disputes later on.
It could be a mistake to wait until a relationship breaks down to make arrangements for children, property and money. This is the worst time to do it, when emotions are running high and it’s difficult to make fair and rational decisions. It’s far better to sit down in advance, and make carefully-considered plans together.
Thinking of moving in together? Three key things cohabiting couples should consider:
- How any property purchased should be held
There are various ways property can be held by owning parties. So, advice from our family law solicitors should be sought regarding this before any purchase takes place. Also, should one person bring property into the relationship, you’ll also need to get advice before this property is transferred into joint names. It’s sadly the case that most cohabitee disputes relate to property ownership.
- Making a will
A will is one of the best ways you can ensure that your assets are left to the person of your choice if you die. Unlike in marriages and civil partnerships, your estate won’t automatically be passed to your ex-partner if you’re cohabiting. You’ll need to name them in your will, making sure you also include other assets such as shares in any jointly owned property.
- Entering into a Cohabitation Agreement/Living Together Agreement
Having an agreement in place can help to regulate the relationship while it’s ongoing. Importantly, it can also assist with division of assets and belongings should the relationship breakdown. At present, such Agreements are not legally binding, but do give an indication to the Court of the parties’ intentions at the time the Agreement was entered into.
Children and cohabitation – everything you need to know
As family lawyers in Liverpool, many of the cases we deal with here at Tracey Miller involve children. Whether it’s divorce or a cohabiting couple going their separate ways, the needs of children are always a top priority.
We’re here to help you find the best solution for the whole family. We’re members of Resolution, which means we’re committed to a constructive and non-confrontational approach. If we can, we’ll keep matters out of the courtroom.
Take a look below for some helpful information on child custody and cohabitation, as it’s dealt with under family law.
How is child custody determined in family law cases?
Following a divorce or separation, parents will need to decide who the child or children will live with. If an arrangement can’t be reached, the courts may need to step in. They can make a child arrangement order stating who the child will live with or if a shared arrangement can be reached, and how much time they spend with the other parent. Family law courts look at your family circumstances, and decide what order will best meet the child’s needs.
What rights do parents have in child custody disputes?
As experienced family law solicitors in Liverpool, we’ve sadly seen many disputes relating to child custody – and not just in cases of divorce. It’s one of the main causes of disputes between cohabiting couples following a separation.
Ideally, you and your ex-partner will make an informal arrangement about child residence and contact. But if you can’t, a court may make an order setting out an arrangement that works in the best interests of the child.
Neither parent has more rights than the other, and you both have parental responsibility. The best solution is likely to be joint residency.
How does child support work and how is it calculated?
Cohabiting couples who separate are under no legal obligation to financially support each other (unlike in divorce). However, if they are parents, both parties are responsible for supporting any children. If children live with one parent, they can claim child maintenance from the other parent.
Child support is calculated based on income, and how much time the child spends living with each parent. Weekly payments are calculated based on that information.
What are the rights and responsibilities of grandparents in family law cases?
Another issue that often crops up in cohabitation and divorce disputes is grandparents rights. Unfortunately, grandparents don’t have an automatic right to have contact with a grandchild. If denied access, they can apply to the court for permission (usually this is done at the same time as making the contact application). To be successful, they’ll need to persuade the court that an ongoing relationship will significantly benefit the life of the child.
It’s really important to get sound legal advice if this situation applies to you. For this and all matters relating to cohabitation and divorce, get in touch with our family law solicitors in Liverpool.