From 27th November to 1st December, Kidd and Spoor Solicitors will be getting involved in ‘ Cohabitation Awareness Week ’ to raise awareness about the current lack of legal protection for co-habiting couples who are separating.

According to Resolution, an organisation working with Family Lawyers, there are about 7 million people living in co-habiting relationships across the UK, and that this is now the fastest growing family type.

As legislation currently stands, there is little protection for parties when a co-habiting relationship breaks down, including couples who have been together for years and even when they have children together. This is a very different position to the various protections in place for married couples who are divorcing. In a divorce process, after a marriage breakdown, either party is entitled to share in the others income, savings and pension. No such rights are afforded to co-habiting couples when their relationship ends. This can lead to financial hardship, and in some cases leave one of the parties with nowhere to live.

Statistics from a Resolution members survey shows that 89% of unmarried couples who separate, are often surprised to find they have no legal rights.

One option for cohabiting couples is to create a co-habitation agreement, which does offer some protection on separation. A co-habitation agreement could, for example, include details of what a couple agrees should happen, in respect of their finances, should the relationship breakdown. Crucially an agreement can deal with the family home, who can stay there, for how long, and who would pay the mortgage. The agreement may also set out how the couple agree to deal with any shortfall of income and responsibility for debts should the relationship come to an end . Having these very important issues resolved at an early stage can provide certainty and security at a time when couples may feel vulnerable and distressed.

Co-habiting couples also have less protection than married couples on the death of one of the parties. For married couples, without a will, on the death of one, all or most of the assets from the deceased estate are automatically transferred to the spouse (dependent on the size of the estate). For co-habiting couples, without a will, on the death of one, there is no automatic right for the deceased estate to be transferred to the partner. If co-habiting couples want their assets to go to their partner on death, it is vital that they have a will in place.

If you in a co-habiting relationship and want to know more information or advice about your rights, or you want to make a will, please contact Kidd and Spoor Solicitors on 0191 2970011 to speak to the ‘Wills and Probate Team’ or the ‘Family Law Team’