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    17 February 2021

    Legal Advice for unmarried couples: Q&A

    During lockdown, many unmarried couples moved in together but is there legal protection for cohabiting couples?

    Unmarried couples were encouraged to move in together during the coronavirus lockdown, as restrictions on movement continue across the UK. As we continue to share our knowledge and disprove the myth of ‘common law’ husband or wife, the Steeles Law Family Law team consider the legal differences between living together and marriage in a live Q&A session with the Law Society during #SolicitorChat.

    Q. What key legal considerations should cohabiting couples think about when moving in together?

    Some key matters to consider are:

    • how property is to be owned, will it be held in your joint names?
    • how finances are to be split, will you have a joint account, will you split bills equally?
    • what assets does each partner own before moving in together, do these need to be protected?

    Q. How do unmarried couples’ rights differ from married couples?

    Unmarried couples living together do not have the same legal protection as married couples and do not have the same responsibilities to one another if they separate. For example, legislation allows married couples to make financial claims in relation to assets in their joint or sole names on separation whereas unmarried couples do not have an automatic claim to the other partner’s assets. Married couples can also apply for maintenance payments from the other party for themselves or children.

    There is a common myth that couples rights change the longer they live together, however, unless a couple marry this is not true. An unmarried couple’s rights will remain the same regardless of the length of time they live together.

    Q. What is a cohabitation agreement and how can it protect cohabiting couples living together?

    A cohabitation agreement is a written agreement entered into by an unmarried couple living together. It outlines the rights and obligations of each partner towards the other, what they own and how each partner’s money and assets will be separated in the unfortunate event that the relationship breaks down. Cohabitation Agreements can also set out a couple’s arrangements whilst they live together, for example how bills are to be paid and can therefore be important in protecting each party’s financial positions.

    Q. Should unmarried couples moving in together think about making or updating their wills?

    Yes, particularly if they would like their partner to benefit from their estate. Without a Will in place, unmarried couples will not be entitled to receive any of their deceased partner’s assets under the intestacy provisions, irrespective of how long they may have lived together.

    For more information, see our earlier article Cohabiting couples – do you need to make a Will?

    How can the Steeles Law Family team help you?

    We suggest cohabiting couples, living together, who have no plans in the future to marry take legal advice with regard to your financial position. A specialist family lawyer will be able to advise you how to protect yourself and your family for the future, please contact the team via our website live chat function, email using family@steeleslaw.co.uk or by calling 01603 598000.

    The Steeles Law Family team remain committed to raising awareness to protect cohabiting couples and ensure they are able to take measures to protect themselves. Working closely with other teams, we post article updates relating to Cohabitation and Frequently asked questions.

    New year, new Will? A time to get your legal affairs in order.
    Cohabiting couples – do you need to make a Will?
    Are you in an unmarried relationship and want to safeguard your assets and/or protect your children?

    *The information provided in this article is designed to provide useful information on the subject, not to provide specific legal advice.

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