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Married couples or civil partners have the right for their needs to be considered by the court following the breakdown of the relationship and as such the law provides protection for married couples to achieve a fair financial outcome. This is not necessary the case for an unmarried couple.
Currently, the law in England and Wales does not provide full financial protection for cohabiting couples. A serious problem for cohabiting couples is that one person may find they have no claim in relation to the property they may have called their home for a number of years. Another concern is whilst a couple will have a financial responsibility for their children this is not the case in terms of supporting a former long-term partner. For example, a person who has given up their career to care for a child does not currently have any claim for financial support for themselves from their former partner.
It is estimated there are approximately 3.3 million cohabitating couples in the UK meaning they are the fastest growing family set up in the UK. Resolution First for Family Law are requesting the Government recognise the rights of unmarried couples. The Law Commission highlighted a change was needed during 2007 but 10 years later the change has not happened.
Resolution are campaigning for awareness to enable families to protect themselves. Their campaign to raise awareness is in full force this week. Useful resources and information prepared by Resolution can be found here.
Until there are changes in the law an unmarried couple can seek to document their joint intentions.
It can be useful to enter into a cohabitation agreement to set out the couple’s intentions in relation to ownership of property, finances and arrangements for their children should the relationship breakdown.
It is also important for a couple who are purchasing a property jointly for both of their names to be included on the title documents and for consideration to be given to entering into a declaration of trust if they intend to own the property in unequal shares.
It is also recommended that couples record their future wishes within a Will should the unexpected happen.
We would recommend that legal advice be taken in relation to the drafting of a cohabitation agreement, declaration of trust or Will.
We have a number of specialists here within our Private Legal Services Department who can assist with the preparation of such documents. Our private family team are all members of Resolution First for Family Law.
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