Many couples choose to live together, often for the rest of their lives, without getting married or entering into a civil partnership. As long as the relationship remains intact, then this should not cause any problems for any party, but issues may arise if the relationship breaks down. Divorcing couples assume certain rights, and this means that if one partner has remained at home to raise the children then they may be entitled to a divorce settlement from their ex-husband or ex-wife. Following the break-down of a relationship between cohabiting partners that are not married, however, there are no such requirements.
It may be possible to seek court intervention over the division of shared assets, and questions of child access and child maintenance will be given the same attention as if the couple had been married, but the lack of parity between cohabitation and marriage separations means that many couples now seek to establish a cohabitation agreement before moving in together.
A Cohabitation Agreement effectively sets out and details the finances of both parties. It highlights who owns what, and in the same way that a prenuptial makes financial plans for any divorce, a Cohabitation Agreement may set out how wealth, property, and money will be divided if the couple were to separate later.
Such agreements are not that commonplace, and it is essential that they are worded and drafted properly to ensure that a court would take them into consideration during a family court case. This means that using a family lawyer is vital to the establishment of a legally binding agreement.
Cohabiting partners do separate, in the same way that married couples divorce, and where there are shared assets it can prove tricky to determine who will receive what. Ownership rights of a house, car, and even items within the property may be disputed, and the courts will intervene in these cases. They may demand that property be sold and the proceeds split accordingly, or that one party buy the other party out of their share.
If a cohabiting but unmarried couple have children, then it is still essential that the child be given access to all family members, except where the courts believe that this is not in the best interest of the child. Child Maintenance Services (CMS) can rule on required maintenance payments, and mediation or court orders can determine the amount of access that a child should granted with each parent. In order to ensure that you receive a fair settlement, or fair rights, you should contact a specialist family law firm.