On the 24th July, for the first time in our history, the United Kingdom will have a Prime Minister who may soon be co-habiting in Downing Street. Matthew Moore Partner at Gales Solicitors in Bournemouth discusses the common legal pitfalls to consider when co-habiting.
Matthew advised, “Although Boris Johnson might be the first ‘soon to be’ co- habiting Prime Minister, he will undoubtedly not be the last. Cohabitation has been increasingly common for several decades and a majority of couples co-habit before they marry. However, surprisingly few people are aware of the difference in legal status between a married couple and a couple who are co-habiting.
“Married couples who split up deal with their finances under the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973. It is a detailed piece of legislation which sets out some very wide- ranging powers for the Court and gives them the ability to look at the entire situation in order to try and determine what a fair outcome would be.
“No such equivalent legislation covers couples who co-habit and many individuals assume that after they have co-habited for a certain length of time, that they then become a common law husband or wife and that this gives them some legal protection. This is completely untrue. Whether you have been co-habiting for 6 weeks or 25 years makes little if any difference to the legal position.
“Generally speaking, couples who co-habit and have assets in their own sole name are able to retain those assets, this can result in appalling unfairness. For example, if a couple have been married for 25 years and have 2 children but the house is and always has been in the one partner’s name, the other partner will have no automatic right to claim against that property. Certain circumstances may give rights to a claim, but this is far from guaranteed and as a result, the poorer partner is generally in a very vulnerable position.
“It is possible to makes claims in respect of certain assets and where young children are involved, the Children Act gives a route to make a claim to ensure that the children are taken care of and of course it would be possible to claim for maintenance for the children from the Child Maintenance Service, however even here the priority is simply making sure that the children’s needs are met and there is no requirement of the Court to consider wider issues than that.
“The most common asset is of course the family home. Often 1 party will have contributed more than the other and even here, if no specific steps are taken, a jointly owned property which one partner has contributed considerably more than the other will not necessarily be split the way the parties imagine, or in line with the contributions they have made.”
Concluding Matthew said, “The reality is that the only way to achieve certainty is to take proper advice at an early stage and to ensure particularly where property is concerned, that both parties have the same understanding of what will happen and then make sure that this is properly recorded in a legal binding document, upon which both parties have taken proper advice.”
Anyone wishing to seek advice is urged to contact Matthew Moore on Tel. 01202 512227 E: Matthew@gales-solicitors.co.uk
About Gales Solicitors
Gales Solicitors was established in 1948 by John Gale and has been providing legal advice to the people of Bournemouth and the surrounding areas for 70 years.
Now located on Winton and Tuckton High Street, Gales Solicitors continue to deliver a professional service from a local base. Offering legal services to both individuals and business clients. The company prides itself on offering expert advice with a friendly face.