Taylor Chanter Solicitor in Cartmell Shepherd’s Family team sets out some points to consider.
Covid-19 has presented a lot of those partners in a non-cohabiting relationship with a big decision to make in respect of whether or not they should move in together. With the current lockdown measures that are in place and the corresponding rules around social distancing, a lot of couples faced the prospect of not being able to see each other in person. Government advice recommended that couples should either remain apart for the duration of lockdown, or move in together. As a result many couples have fast-tracked their relationship and moved in together or will be considering doing so following the end of lockdown.
Whether you have recently moved in together, or are considering doing so when lockdown is over, it is important to consider the potential legal and financial consequences that can arise from this, especially if only one of the couple owns the property where they intend to live. There is a common misconception that living together without marrying creates a common law marriage, but unfortunately this is simply a myth. The reality is that living together without getting married does not give you the same financial and legal rights that you would receive if married.
An example of this is that if the property is owned by only one of the couple, if they were to separate the house would still belong solely to that person and the other would have no right to remain at the property following the breakdown of the relationship, nor would they have any automatic claim to an interest in it even if they had contributed financially during the time they had lived together. It is possible to argue to the contrary, but the non-owning party would have to show a common intention as to the ownership of the property and that they had acted to their detriment as a result of this.
It is therefore important for couples to have clear discussions with each other in regard to each other’s financial expectations and the ownership of property. Key issues to consider are how you are both going to contribute financially to the property and the intention behind this contribution. For example many people will have more spare time on their hands at the moment and perhaps they might take the opportunity to complete the extension, add a patio or even just decorate, if so consideration should be given as to whether such improvements will enhance the value of the house and how should this be reflected in the ownership of the property. If the intention behind any financial contributions or home improvements is to give rise to an interest in the property it is important that this is recorded in a legal document.
It is advisable to take legal advice in this respect so that you are clear as to the potential risks involved, whether your partner is moving into your property or you are moving into your partner’s property. Having a Cohabitation Agreement drawn up could save a lot of problems occurring in the unfortunate event that you do separate. Of course, nobody moves in together with a view of separating, but unfortunately this does happen and it is important that you and your finances are adequately protected.
If you are thinking about moving in with your partner or if you have recently started to live together and would like to talk to a solicitor about the arrangements, contact Taylor Chanter in our family team on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01228 51666.