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Living Together Agreements


Nowadays many couples live together without going through the formality of a wedding ceremony. Unfortunately, the frequency of separation for both married and unmarried couples is increasing. However many people do not realise that the protection afforded to divorcing couples is not available to those who have lived together without being married.

A myth has built up that by living with another person for a certain period of time, a common-law marriage is created and that this means that an unmarried couple can be treated in the same way upon separation as a married couple. Common-law marriage no longer exists, having been abolished 250 years ago. So whilst divorcing couples can rely on the jurisdiction of the court to adjust their financial circumstances in a way that is fair and reasonable, unmarried couples must rely on the law of property.

This can create significant problems when attempting to divide up who owns what when an unmarried couple separates. Of course, this may never happen to you, but statistically speaking a significant proportion of unmarried relationships do not survive, and many of these involve the ownership of a house.

Whilst you are in partnership together, there is often a high level of agreement about things, and it would be a good idea to record your agreement and set out the ground rules that you think would be fair if your partnership should happen to fail. If the worst came to the worst, a written agreement made now would save you a lot of money in legal fees fighting about it later.

For example, you might like to record how much you have each contributed towards the purchase of the house. You could base an agreement to separate on those proportions if it should ever become necessary.

Alternatively, you may have agreed which of you is going to pay the mortgage and which the other bills. Again, you could record your agreement just in case. Whilst this is most important when buying a house together, it can also apply to any situation where an unmarried couple decides to set up home together.

Of course, you may not wish to contemplate the possibility of your relationship failing. After all, none of us goes into a situation such as that with the intention that it will not last for the rest of our lives. However, we do all look into the future to some degree, whether it is by taking out insurance, making a will or setting up a savings plan, and it is simply common sense to look at the practical aspects of what might happen if things do not go exactly to plan.

You are free to agree to any terms which you are both happy with, and that is the point. You must both be happy with the arrangement.

The preparation and signing of a Living Together Agreement can therefore help to avoid lengthy, costly and emotionally draining arguments in the future.

We are always willing to discuss each individual situation. Please phone Alistair Dobson on 01858 445480, James Haworth on 0116 212 1000 or Sarah Townsend on 0116 212 1080 to arrange a free initial appointment or visit one of our free walk-in clinics.

Please note this will be kept in strictest confidence and is required solely to ensure we do not have a conflict of interest according to SRA regulations. The party WILL NOT be contacted by Lawson-West.