Is there a difference between Marriage and Cohabitation?
Over 6 million couples in the UK cohabit. However it is only the minority of those millions who seek advice at the start of their cohabitation as to the impact this will have upon them in law not only upon themselves but also their children from a previous relationship.
It is more usual to seek legal advice at the end of a relationship which is when you learn for the first time The differences when you split – especially if you have children – are immense, and more than half the population are still blissfully unaware that Common Law Marriage is a myth.
There are currently lots on consultations into whether or not laws relating to Cohabitees should change to reflect our changing society but as at the time of writing this article such changes are not imminent. So what do you need to know.
The law in this field is extremely complex and verbose. We have to look to old Trust principles and Proprietary Estoppel to protect potential financial interests if the family home is in one persons sole name. There is no automatic 50% interests even if you have made a financial contribution. In the absence of any trust deed defining your respective interest and where verbal agreements are conveniently forgotten it can often be left to a court to adjudicate upon such matters but evidence is required. Often in a relationship when all is good such evidence is not retained.
Where there are children then you have some protection under the children Act 1989 from a financial perspective. However this may well be limited to a capital claim if you don’t fall outside of the Child Maintenance Service provisions. However what can you do if you feel the Child Maintenance Service is not taking everything into consideration.
If you are married all of this is managed under the Matrimonial Causes Act. It can still be quite complex but the law is all managed under one umbrella. This is not so for Cohabitees.
This is why it is so important to seek advise at the very early stages of your relationship to ensure both of your interests and those of your children are fully protected both during your relationship and if unfortunately it come to an end.
For more details contact our Family Team by pressing here.