There are now well over 3 million cohabiting couples in the UK and no doubt many of them still believe that they have the same rights as their married friends if their relationship were to breakdown or if their partner were to die.
The reality is that they do not have anything like the same legal protection even if they have been together for many years and there are still many cases where a party is left in very difficult financial circumstances when the relationship breaks down or their partner dies.
An attempt is being made to address the problem in the Cohabitation Rights Bill which proposes that, subject to certain eligibility criteria, a former cohabitant should be able to apply for a Financial Settlement Order. It remains to be seen whether this Bill will become law and how long it may take to be properly debated.
Until then cohabiting couples should protect their rights in relation to property by Declaration of Trust and should consider signing a Cohabitation Agreement. They should also ensure that they have wills detailing what is to happen to their property and other assets on death.
If you have any queries regarding co-habitation rights, or any other questions relating to family law, please do not hesitate to contact myself or a member of the team.