Co-Habitation Rights Bill and what it means for couples who live together

8551939166_b6e07e612c_mAre you living with your partner but you are not married to each other? Do you believe that should your relationship breakdown you would be in the same position financially as a married couple? Do you believe that if your partner were to pre decease you then you would be entitled to benefit from their estate on death or receive their pension? A large proportion of people would answer “yes”, especially since more and more people choose to live together rather than get married, but the actual legal reality of their positions on relationship breakdown and death is very different and if you are not married to your partner, then the law treats you differently than if you were.   Legal protections available to people living with their partners are very limited if they have not entered in to cohabitation agreements (also called living together agreements). Unfortunately, many people have entered into relationships without first taking legal advice as to their position and this has caused them hardship, one of the most common being where the family home is in the name of one partner only.  In such a case, it may be possible to secure an interest by bringing a claim based on the law of trusts, but this often is not straightforward.  Also, if a partner dies, then there is no automatic entitlement to inherit where that partner leaves no valid will, although it can be possible to bring a claim for maintenance in certain circumstances.

Over the years, there has been a lot of discussion and debate as to how to address these issues, and at this moment in time, there is a Cohabitation Rights Bill passing through Parliament.  Whilst the Bill, if passed as law, will not give cohabitees the same rights as married couples, it does go some way to providing statutory arrangements for non married couples who separate.

The Bill sets out who it will apply for (not all couples are covered where the relationship is very shortlived) and it allows for couples to “opt out” of the financial settlement provisions. It will enable the court to make orders for capital payments, property and pension-sharing as well as enable a partner to inherit an interst in the estate of a partner who has died without making a valid will. Claims will, howver, need to be made within 2 years of separation.

It remains to be seen whether the Bill does become law but in the meantime, if you are living with your partner as part of a couple and you are uncertain as to your rights and entitlements, then our family law solicitors in Leicestershire are here to help you.