Unmarried couples should prepare for all eventualities

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Unmarried couples should prepare for all eventualities

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Unmarried couples should prepare for all eventualities says Law Society

The Law Society says unmarried couples are at risk if they don’t plan or prepare for all eventualities when co-habiting or combining assets.

Following a recent case where a man who had split up with his co-habiting partner 17 years ago, and was awarded a half share in the house they once lived in, even though he had never paid the mortgage.

The house was purchased as joint tenants or co – owners and remained so after the relationship dissolved.

The Law Society says couples should plan for a worst case scenario where they split up and must deal with distribution of their assets, as co-habiting couples have fewer rights than those who are married or in a civil partnership.

Seeking the advice of a solicitor before moving in or breaking up can help to make this as painless as possible and could save a lot of time and money if you do split up.

Rights surrounding parental responsibility, wills and pensions also differ compared to couples who are married or in a civil partnership. These issues can be explained in detail by a family solicitor.


Samantha Jago, family law solicitor at rhw Solicitors observed that many co-habiting couples wrongly believe that they have the same legal protection as a married couple or those in a civil partnership.

“Although there has been a surge in the number of people living together and choosing not to marry the law has not kept up with this change. Proposals to change the law to give cohabiting couples more rights were put on hold by the previous government,” she says.

Law Society President Robert Heslett says:

“It is no surprise that couples do not want to consider the ramifications if they break up but it is essential that when committing to set up home together to seek legal advice from a solicitor in order to prepare for any eventuality.

“Cases like the one described are happening all too frequently and we urge co-habiting couples to ensure they have protected their assets or they too may face a similar fate.”

Samantha Jago adds:

“What is particularly worrying is that many people choosing to live together do not understand how property can be held and all too often their investment in a property will not be recognised. Alternatively if they have children and one party is not willing to compromise matters they face complicated and potentially protracted legal proceedings.”

“A clear explanation of the law can avoid these problems. Parties can be explained the benefits of entering into a Deed of Trust setting out in what proportions a property is to be held or even enter into a Co-habitation Agreement. A properly drafted, straight forward agreement can protect both parties, prevent dispute and should be considered by anyone considering living together.”

This advice comes as part of the Law Society’s nationwide YOUR SOLICITOR, QUALIFIED TO ANSWER campaign, which takes a Beatles theme with the strapline ‘Help, I need somebody’. It is currently featured in the national press, on trams, metros, railway stations, buses, on taxis, at televised cricket matches and online, with over 380 million opportunities to see.