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Cohabiting couples: what are your property rights?

Harjit Rait | Cohabiting couples: what are your property rights?

As the voting race hots up, the Labour Party has committed to property rights for cohabiting couples if they are elected at the next General Election.

Resolution, a UK institution for family lawyers has been campaigning for years to make the law fairer for unmarried couples who live together. From 27 November to 1 December, it is running an awareness week to call attention to the need for cohabitation reform and launch its Vision for Family Justice.

As the law currently stands though, if you and your partner are not married or in a civil partnership you are not recognised as a couple. Even if you have lived together for years or have children, you have very little legal protection. This makes it difficult to claim a share in the family home or your partner’s finances if you break up.

You might have agreed that one of you will give up work to care for the children, or you may have a verbal agreement about who pays the mortgage and who pays the bills. Without the correct legal documentation in place however, there’s no law to protect you financially if the relationship breaks down or one of you dies.

This means that even if you have put money into your home, if the tenancy agreement or deeds are in your partner’s name you have no legal rights to the property and could be asked to leave. You and any children you have from a previous relationship will not automatically have a share in any property or assets you have accumulated with your current partner either.

If you do not plan to get married but would like to ensure that your property and finances are divided fairly in the event of separation, a family law solicitor can help you. They can draft a cohabitation agreement that sets out your joint plans for finances, property and arrangements for your children if you separate.

Depending on your circumstances, it might also be a good idea to write Wills that give you the right to inherit each other’s share of your joint property and possessions.

If you do plan to get married but do not want your partner to claim on your assets if you divorce, you can set up a prenuptial agreement to protect them.

Although Labour’s plans are encouraging to hear, it is important to be aware that the law currently makes little provision for unmarried cohabiting couples. We speak to many people who have not realised or considered this until it is too late, adding to the emotional and financial upheaval at what is already a very difficult time.

How can Harjit help you?

Resolution accredited partner, Harjit Rait specialises in the financial aspects of family law, advising on the protection of wealth and the impacts of separation and divorce.

With additional experience dealing with the issues around childcare arrangements, she can help you and your partner ensure that you are legally protected in all relevant aspects of your lives together.

For more information, contact Harjit on 01274 386 598 or at ku.oc1718413413.fcl@1718413413tiarh1718413413

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