According to Tracy Lowe, solicitor with one of the country’s leading family law firms Midlands-based, Harrison Clark LLP, when people fall in love and start their new life living together and, perhaps, have children, the last thing they want to think about is "if it goings wrong, what will happen?".
BUT BEWARE – there are hidden dangers out there which may come back to haunt you and have serious financial implications, in the short or long term.
If you are married then there is a statutory framework that the Court can rely on to ensure fairness to both of you If you are involved in a same sex relationship the Civil Partnership Act can give the Court similar powers to help you. But, if you are an unmarried couple and your relationship comes to an end, there is no comparable legislation in place. We have all heard of the phrase "common law husband/common law wife or common law marriage" –there is no such thing.
More and more couples are cohabiting and the number is expected to double by 2021. 40% of all children in the UK are now born outside of marriage.
Even after a relatively short period of cohabitation, significant changes may occur which could affect your future, a couple could find themselves with children, a house which has increased 50% in value from when they purchased it and a mother who no longer works and a father who has been promoted and earning a higher income.
What if it goes wrong – the questions that are frequently asked are:-
• What rights to I have in relation to the children?
• How are the mortgage and bills to be paid now that we have split up?
• Who keeps the car?
• Who gets the contents
• Will I have to sell the home?
• What if I have sold my previous home and/or injected capital into this home?
• Can the children and I stay in the property indefinitely?
If there are children within the relationship the day to day arrangements for their care need to be resolved, either by agreement, help from your solicitor, mediation, or the Court if agreement cannot be reached. Although the Child Support Agency will deal with the support of your children, it will not deal with where you children will live or any other specialised legal help which you may need to resolve any issues between you.
Many couples today enter into cohabitation agreements. Although it is not particularly romantic, nor overly optimistic, this arrangement may well prevent months of litigation, anxiety and may save you both significant legal costs if your relationship does break down. This may give you protection for the future.
If there is no cohabitation agreement then it is likely that the Courts will have to rely on the law of trusts to resolve any dispute over the property which is a notoriously complicated area of the law in which skilled and specialised legal help is essential. If you have children of that relationship who reside with you then you may be able to consider an application under the Children Act so that both you and the children can continue to remain living at the property during their minority.
Whatever your circumstances, it is well worth consulting your solicitor prior to any cohabitation and you should always see your solicitor in the event of the breakdown of the relationship in order to ascertain where you stand legally – if not you may well pay a high price for not doing so.
The Law Commission has indicated that it will submit to the Government in July recommendations concerning the financial hardship suffered by Cohabitants or their children when their relationship comes to an end and will provide recommendations in order to make changes to the law in this area. But beware, even if the recommendations are accepted by the Government, it may well be a considerable time before they are introduced into legislation or come into affect. Act now, before it is too late.
Notes to editors: For further information on this press release please contact Tracy Lowe at Harrison Clark LLP on Tel: 01905 612001 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Alternatively you can contact Angela Baker at Marketing IQ Ltd on Tel: 01905 359475 or e-mail email@example.com
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