“Common Law Property Rights?” 6 Things You Must Include In A Cohabitation Agreement


Ever wondered about Common Law Property Rights?

If you are moving in together you will be busy unpacking boxes and finding a home for everything. Or maybe you’ve been living together for a while and everything’s rosy.

But did you know there’s no such thing as common law marriage? And you don’t have the same rights as a married couple? This may come as a shock to you but don’t worry, there’s something you can do about it. If you’re still not convinced, see my blog 6 reasons why you need a cohabitation agreement

If you want an equal and sharing relationship with your partner, but you also want to protect your property from a claim should you split up, consult an expert family law solicitor.

Here are six things you will need to think about for your Cohabitation Agreement.

1. Property you owned before you moved in together

Couples often agree it will remain separate. They can also agree their partner can’t make a claim over it.

For example, you own your own home and your partner moves in. What if your partner makes payments on the mortgage? Or does work on the property? This could give them a claim over it. If this is not what you want, you really do need to be explicit about it.

2. Property you acquire after you move in together

The question is, do you buy it as joint tenants or as tenants in common? What do these terms mean and how can you protect yourself? See my blog Shall I buy a house with my partner for a quick and clear explanation.

But if the property is in the sole name of one of you, you need to address the issues raised in paragraph 1 above.

3. Household expenses

What if you don’t own your home jointly? Or if one of you earns more than the other?

Maybe you will agree unequal contributions. Maybe your partner will agree to contribute to the mortgage and acknowledge this will give them no claim over the property.

4. Inheritance and Wills

Did you know unmarried couples don’t automatically inherit each other’s estates if they die?

Life assurance can be important for the survivor. But if you do want to leave your estates to each other make sure you both have a will and you keep it up to date. See my recent blog, Do I need a will? Here’s one very good reason.

5. Children

If you have children already, you can provide for co-parenting if you split.

You can think about where the children will live and who will pay child maintenance and how much – see my blog What are your child maintenance options. You might want to consider the ownership of your home. After all, the children will need a roof over their heads.

You can also agree payments to the parent with whom the children will live if their earning capacity is likely to be reduced as a result.

6. Independent Legal Advice

Both of you will need to take independent legal advice. This means you will have no doubt about what you are agreeing, and it will make your agreement binding. And if your relationship ends, the Court is more likely to take notice of your agreement and put it into effect.

But please remember a Cohabitation Agreement must be revisited as your relationship evolves:

  • If children arrive
  • If your financial situation changes radically
  • There could be health problems, inheritances and issues concerning aging and elder care.

Cohabitation Agreements

Contact Joanne Houston on 01962 217640 for free advice on cohabitation agreements. In this 20 minute session we will review your situation and how you can achieve your objectives.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions. We offer collaborative law which is especially relevant in providing solutions tailored to your family’s needs. This includes same sex couples and their families. Visit our website just-family-law.com The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. Therefore if any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog have application to you, seek expert legal advice.

image Man and woman silhouettes by Fred Bchx on Wikimedia Commons


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Prenuptial Agreement – Relationship Insurance?

prenuptial agreementDon’t be under any illusions about the significance of Prenuptial Agreements – if every couple had one it’s likely there would be far fewer disputes about finances. Divorce solicitors would be twiddling their thumbs and tumbleweed would be blowing along the corridors of our family courts.

But does the idea of a Prenuptial Agreement make you feel uncomfortable? It doesn’t sound like the most romantic idea in the run up to your marriage. And what about the wedding vows, how does a Prenuptial Agreement fit in with “until death do us part”?

But some say that a Prenuptial Agreement (or Pre-Registration Agreement for civil partners) proves in black and white that you’re not marrying for money, but for love.

And another way of looking at it is that it’s not planning for failure, but an insurance policy.

A Prenuptial Agreement is a contract freely entered into by a couple prior to their marriage setting out what will happen if they divorce. This is of particular concern in the case of assets brought into the marriage, or if there is an inheritance, or if there are children of an earlier relationship. If the Prenuptial Agreement is prepared with the assistance of an expert family solicitor, it stands a good chance of being upheld by the court if one or other of the couple go back on it.

The ITV series, “Victoria”, has reminded me of the young Queen’s passionate attachment to her adored Albert. When she asked him to marry her, he accepted, but they weren’t just billing and cooing in the run up to their wedding, they were thinking about how much Albert’s annual allowance would be.

Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were happily married for 21 years and had nine children. Their marriage only ended on Albert’s tragic death. But before they married they both recognised the importance of sorting out the finances.

And here are two essential points. It doesn’t mean that you aren’t committed to each other, that you won’t have a long and happy marriage. But it does mean there is an agreement between you.

This agreement of course has the potential to save you a great deal of money in terms of solicitors’ fees.

But unfortunately in the case of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert, Parliament interfered and reduced the amount Albert would receive. The young couple were not amused, in fact they were both highly annoyed.

You don’t need to worry too much about Parliament interfering, but do you want to risk the interference of the courts? If you don’t have a Prenuptial Agreement and your marriage or civil partnership breaks down all the finances are up for grabs. The court’s approach is that the ownership of any asset, whether it be in joint or sole names, and whenever it was acquired, can be changed.

As I have mentioned in a previous post this leads to uncertainty. That’s the downside. The upside is that it’s a flexible approach which takes into account differing circumstances.

But the thing about having a Prenuptial Agreement is that it can provide a degree of certainty. This can be particularly important if one of the couple is wealthy.

This was true of Miss Radmacher, a German heiress thought to be worth £100m, who married Mr Granatino, a French banker, in London in 1998. Before their wedding they entered into a Prenuptial agreement, the intention being to protect Miss Radmacher’s wealth.

Sadly after eight years and two children the marriage failed and despite their Prenuptial Agreement Mr Granatino made a claim against Miss Radmacher’s wealth. But the court upheld the Prenuptial Agreement, making the point that at the time the couple agreed it, they intended to stick to it and were fully aware of the financial position.

So although such Prenuptial Agreements are not automatically enforceable, since the important case of Radmacher v Granatino they carry a great deal of weight if drawn up with the assistance of an expert family law solicitor.

Of course the longer you are together the more likely it is that your circumstances will change. For example you could start a very successful business. If your Prenuptial Agreement no longer suits your circumstances it can be revised if you both agree.

Or if you don’t have a Prenuptial Agreement, you can enter into a Post Nuptial Agreement. 

In fact it’s never too late. Even if your marriage has broken down and you have decided to divorce you can enter into a Separation Agreement. This could provide for you to live separately for two years and then divorce. It could set out all the arrangements for property and money and the children in the meantime. As is the case with a Prenuptial Agreement, it would carry a great deal of weight if drawn up with the assistance of an expert family law solicitor. 

And don’t forget that if you want to enter into a Prenuptial or Post Nuptial or Separation Agreement, or you have an existing agreement and would like to renegotiate it, collaborative law or mediation is available if you are having difficulties with the fine details.

Do you like the idea of divorce solicitors twiddling their thumbs and tumbleweed blowing along the corridors of our family courts? Is a Prenuptial Agreement the answer? If you have an opinion, please leave us a comment. We would be interested to read it.

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JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog might have application to you, you should seek expert legal advice.


Photograph by Lies Thru a Lens

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How to Survive the Summer and Avoid Divorce

survive the summer avoid divorceYou’ve got the childcare sorted. Good start! Perhaps you and your other half are taking turns to work at home, or maybe you’re using up your holiday entitlement. If the worst comes to the worst there’s always the grandparents or a childminder or a local play scheme. So pat yourself on the back. It’s covered. Fingers crossed there’ll be no major tantrums or tummy bugs this year (and that’s just the grandparents).

So it’s time to look forward to the biggest of big treats, the long awaited and eagerly anticipated family holiday. In those weary moments between filling up the dishwasher and collapsing into bed, drink a glass of wine and dream about Bermuda, or the Balearics, or Bognor Regis – whichever charmed spot you’ve chosen this year.

Because wherever it is, it’ll be wonderful, won’t it? The days will be filled with delight for you and the children. Happy memories will be formed that will last a lifetime. The sky will be blue, the sea will be warm. In the long and fragrant evenings you and your other half with sit on the terrace/in the bar/in front of the tent, and share a bottle of wine/jug of sangria/can of lager and reflect happily on the joys of family life. As the sun goes down you will smile lovingly into each other’s eyes.

But was there ever such a perfect holiday?

For starters there’s the weather. Who knows, there might be days when it’s a bit rainy or a bit windy. There could even be a hurricane (although probably not in Bognor Regis). Then there’s the squabbling siblings, the younger one’s ceaseless chatter which provokes the older one into gloomy sulks. And there’s that gut wrenching thought as you pay for yet another expensive activity that the children would probably do just as well with a bucket and spade on the beach.

And don’t forget the querulous and hard to please other half. Last year they spent all of thirty minutes playing with the children and the rest of the holiday learning to scuba dive. How annoying was that! Or maybe they said, Here are the children, it’s your turn now, and spent the rest of the holiday flat on their back on a lilo in the middle of the pool, piña colada in hand.

The fact of the matter is summer holidays aren’t perfect and if you spend the year imagining that everything will be put right by one you will be sorely disappointed.

And sadly there’s a spike in divorces after the holidays, typically in September. But does it have to be like that? Do you have to return from your much anticipated holiday feeling betrayed and angry because your other half didn’t match up?

Of course no one advocates staying in an unhappy marriage because that’s probably no good for anyone, parents and children alike. But maybe there’s another approach. Maybe before going on holiday, maybe even before booking it, you could stand back and ask yourself, What do I want from this holiday? What can I do in advance to help make it work?

It might be an idea to talk frankly to your other half. Tell them just what it is you want. Tell them how you’d like the parenting managed. Ask them what their expectations are. Do they see it as the crowning achievement of the family’s year? They might well agree it’s an opportunity for family joy and togetherness. But they might say what they want more than anything else is relaxation, a break from the routine, some “me time”. Or maybe, deep down, they don’t like holidays at all, they really can’t stand travel, hotels, beach bars, infinity pools. What they really fancy is a fortnight hiking in the hills in a fluorescent cagoule, rounded off by wrestling with a sopping tent in the pouring rain.

It takes all sorts. You love them because they’re an individual? Right? Let’s face it, it could be that you and your other half have completely different expectations.

And to top it all did you know that some people see the summer holiday as the last chance to save a relationship. Put down in black and white that seems crazy doesn’t it? If the magic has gone, if your other half is annoying the hell out of you, maybe a more full proof method of stress testing the relationship would be to talk to them about it, address it full on. Who knows, you might be able to talk it through. Or if that doesn’t work perhaps it’s time to see a relationship counsellor. Maybe the relationship is over, or maybe it’s worth trying to save. Sometimes in the hurly burly of family life it’s easy to lose sight of each other’s needs.

If none of this works and you end the summer thinking, that’s it, I’ve had enough, then perhaps divorce is indeed the answer for you. You will be able to turn the page, find a new, independent life for yourself free of the burden and the unhappiness of your marriage.

But is divorce that easy? Looking on the bright side, it could be that you will reach an agreement about the finances and the children relatively painlessly. The marriage behind you, you embark on your new life. You bloom like a flower in the desert after a rainstorm. It’s the making of you. You’re happier, healthier and more in charge of your life.

If this is the case I’m happy for you. May you continue to prosper.

But sadly life after divorce isn’t always that simple.

You may have realistic and practical ideas about how you’ll live after the divorce but your other half might see things quite, quite differently. You might think the ideal solution would be for you and the children to stay in the family home and for the other half to move out and find a new place. This may indeed be the most sensible solution, both in practical and financial terms, and no doubt in the best interests of the children. But will your other half agree? Not necessarily. It could be they’ve got their head stuck firmly in the sand. So you contact a solicitor. You try collaborative law, or maybe mediation. These are often really excellent ways to reach a happy conclusion. But sadly cases about finances and children do reach the courts – an expensive and stressful business for all concerned.

Divorce does indeed have its downside. It could be that as you turn the page on your marriage you will find yourself starting a new life in a different home, your finances radically altered. The children may, or may not, adjust well to the new arrangements. They may or may not have good quality and regular visits with their absent parent. And you’re now functioning as a lone parent household which can be great but can also be very, very hard.

You might also find your wider relationships affected. Maybe a family member wasn’t as supportive as you’d hoped, maybe a friend tried to stay neutral and this hurt you. Suddenly it seems everything’s changed – your home, your finances, the daily slog of running everything, your relationships with your family and circle of friends.

I can honestly say I’ve never come across a client who wanted to get divorced for trivial reasons. Every client has their own unique and painful story to tell so I’m not advocating that anyone should stay married if they don’t want to and I’m not saying that divorce is a bad thing that should be avoided. I’m just making the point that if you think this summer holiday is make or break time for your relationship, please try to talk it through beforehand, manage your expectations, maybe get professional help with your relationship. Because divorce isn’t a walk in the park, it can be painful and can have long lasting consequences.

So anyway, enjoy the holidays! Let’s face it, if you can sort out the summer childcare, you can sort out anything.

Do you find the holidays stressful? We would love to hear from you so please leave us a comment.

If you have found this post interesting please sign up below for new posts by email.

JUST FAMILY LAW are specialist divorce and family law solicitors offering personalised legal solutions.

Visit our website just-family-law.com

The topics covered in this blog post are complex and are provided for general guidance only. If any of the circumstances mentioned in this blog might have application to you, you should seek expert legal advice.


image Michelle Reif (public domain)

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