Why Living Together Agreements are more important than ever before

On behalf of Attwaters Jameson Hill posted in Family Law on Monday, February 1st, 2021

These days, many more couples are deciding to live together without getting married. This may be due to the extortionate costs of weddings, a rejection of archaic social conventions or simply because they’re happy as they are. However, what many unmarried couples are unaware of is that they lack many of the same legal rights as those who are married or in a civil partnership. If an unmarried couple separates, neither partner is entitled to financial support or a share in their former partner’s assets. This may even extend to the property they live in.

Curran v Collins [2015]

A recent case that really highlights the lack of legal rights unmarried couples have is that of Ms Curran and Mr Collins, who appeared before the Court in 2015. The partners had been in a relationship since 1977, and were together for some 33 years before splitting up in 2010. If they had been married, Ms Curran would have been entitled to a share in the property they had lived in, a share in the kennels business they had built up and run together for many years, as well as some form of financial maintenance.

Despite Ms Curran’s assumption that she would be provided for in the event of separation, she failed to prove to the Court that she was entitled to an interest in any of Mr Collins’s three properties, all of which were owned in his sole name. Nor could she prove that she was entitled to a share in their business, which she had contributed to for many years. In the end, Ms Curran walked away with nothing but a few thousand pounds from a relationship that had lasted longer than many marriages.

Living Together Agreements – legal protection and peace of mind

If you do not want to get married, then there is a way of protecting yourself legally and ensuring that both partners are treated fairly in the event of separation. A Living Together Agreement (also sometimes known as a Cohabitation Agreement) is a legally binding document signed by both parties that governs how finances, property and other assets should be dealt with if you both go separate ways in the future. Things you can address in a Living Together Agreement include:

  • How and in what proportion you pay mortgage/rent/household bills
  • How your finances should be split, e.g. money in joint bank accounts or pensions
  • How your property is owned, e.g. jointly or solely owned, as well as the share each partner would take if they were to separate
  • Arrangements for any children
  • Ownership of pets
  • Ownership of cars and vehicles

Curran v Collins – what would have happened if a Living Together Agreement had been in place?

Let’s say that, after five or 10 years together, Ms Curran and Mr Collins had drafted a Living Together Agreement. It might have outlined that, although the property was owned in Mr Collins’s sole name, Ms Curran had a beneficial interest in the property due to her financial contributions. It might have detailed her entitlement to a share in Mr Collins’s assets, including a share in the kennels business they had built up together. It could even have ensured she was entitled to financial support or a share in Mr Collins’s pension. Ms Curran would have been able to walk away from the relationship as a business partner, with the proceeds from her share in the house perhaps allowing her to buy or rent a home of her own.

Our sensitive lawyers can help facilitate discussions

Discussing topics such as money and property can be difficult, but our knowledgeable lawyers have years of experiences in facilitating productive discussions between couples. We will guide you through the process at your pace and to your schedule, with no legalese in sight! To get started on drafting your Living Together Agreement, contact stephanie.holmes@attwaters.co.uk.

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