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The Myth of Common Law Marriage

With the rise of cohabiting couples continuing to increase – it is time to debunk the myth that a common law marriage exists. It doesn’t.

It does not matter how long a couple have lived together or how intertwined their finances are – they do not have the same legal rights as a married couple or civil partners. This means that if the relationship breaks down, it may cause uncertainty, financial loss and possible disputes. Indeed, those disputes can often be more difficult to resolve than those of a married couple due to the state of the law.


What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A way that cohabiting couples can help to overcome this is by entering into a cohabitation agreement which details who owns what, and what is to happen should the parties separate. It can be completely tailored to suit the parties’ circumstances.

A cohabitation agreement can address a variety of things, such as:

  • Ownership of assets such as property, cars etc,
  • Financial contributions such as household bills, payment of debts etc,
  • Pets.

This will mean that should the parties separate, any issues have been considered from the outset. This should limit arguments or animosity regarding the next steps to be taken and if there is a dispute there is a single document to refer to in order to aid resolving matters. Anecdotally, it is also important to consider that addressing matters at the outset will often benefit the relationship generally.


Can I draw up my own cohabitation agreement?

Whilst it may be tempting to draw up your own by using an online template or carrying out your own online research, it is rarely the best option for you. The templates and advice are generic, unlikely to fit your circumstances and there is a significant risk of getting it wrong which could cause more damage than having no agreement in place. It is important that the cohabitation agreement covers everything, and it is clear what both parties intentions are.

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document, and it is important that both parties seek independent legal advice to make sure that you fully understand the document that you have signed. Demonstrating that advice has been taken can also impact the enforceability of the agreement in the event of a dispute.


Can we amend our cohabitation agreement?

It is possible to amend a cohabitation agreement with consent. In fact, it is best practice to review whether the agreement is still fit for purpose and particularly where there are any major life changes, such as children, additional property, etc.


Making a cohabitation agreement

If you would like to know more about cohabitation agreements and to explore the advantages it may offer in your circumstances, you can get started online. Or, alternatively, you can contact our family law experts who will be able to answer any questions you may have.

Get in touch

If you have any questions relating to this article or have any family disputes you would like to discuss, please contact the family law team.

Email family law team
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