“Couples who live together but aren’t married should seriously consider making a Cohabitation Agreement,” says Helen Shaw, an experienced family law solicitor at Tallents Solicitors in Mansfield.

“There has been a continued rise in the number of cohabiting couples in recent years but one in four people living together still believe that they have the same legal protection as married couples if they split up,” she says. “However, it’s a common misconception that as a ‘common-law’ spouse or partner, you will be protected if you split up. Unfortunately, English law does not recognise this status. Only a marriage, or civil partnership confers certain legal rights on partners living together.”

Helen continues:

“When a married couple splits up, then both parties have a legal right to a fair share of their joint assets (including property and finances) and possibly ongoing maintenance.

“But cohabiting couples do not have access to these rights, no matter how long they have been living together or whether they have children together. This can come as nasty financial shock if the relationship breaks down, often leading to complex legal disputes to try and sort everything out fairly.”

She says:

“But there is something that can be done about this. Although no one in a relationship wants to think about an exit plan, where property, finances and children are concerned, it is the sensible and adult thing to sit down and work out what you would do if the worst did happen.

“We recommend that all cohabiting couples consider making a Cohabitation Agreement. This legal document records the couple’s agreement concerning property, financial arrangements and responsibilities if the relationship should break down. If properly drawn up, the agreement should be legally binding on both parties. It is important that you obtain specialist advice from a lawyer to ensure that the agreement is valid. Think of it as an insurance document to protect you both that might never need to be used but is the sensible action to take to protect you both.”

Helen points out:

“It’s also sensible to consider making a Will at the same time as a Cohabitation Agreement as a lot of the questions about what you want to do with your estate are already being raised during the discussions for a Cohabitation Agreement.”

Helen finishes:

“My team and I can help you consider any aspects regarding your home, finances and your children in a way that will consider the possible future needs of you all. Just call me on 01623 666700 to set up an appointment to discuss a Cohabitation Agreement or making a Will.”

Helen Shaw is an experienced family lawyer working for Tallents Solicitors in Mansfield