• Busted Myths and a Trio of Takeaways
  • January 15, 2018 | Author: Natalie O'Shea
  • Law Firm: Withers LLP - London Office
  • As Hilary Clinton can testify, campaigns do not always go as planned. Our recent cohabitation awareness campaign was no exception, we highlighted a number of risks and solutions for unmarried couples, but feedback suggests much more needs to be done to inform modern families of their rights. Here's what you should take away from the campaign:

    Cohabiting couples: The fastest growing family type, are you protected?

    By now, you may be familiar with the fact that cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family model in the UK. The figures released in September by the Office of National Statistics speak for themselves – of the 19m families in the UK in 2017, 3.3m are cohabiting, that number having doubled in the last 20 years (whereas the number of married couples has grown by only 1.5%) even though cohabitation offers much less protection than marriage on relationship breakdown. Key to the campaign was to raise awareness about this lack of legal protection and to dispel some of the legal myths about cohabitation – presenting protection options for all couples living together to avoid future financial hardship. Given the number of firms and bodies supporting the campaign and the positive coverage in the media (The Times article), this message has hopefully hit home.

    Takeaway points:

    • Myth one: Cohabitation rights and property – I am entitled to my share
    • Myth two: Cohabitation rights – If we have children, I'll be entitled to my share of the house and to child maintenance
    • Myth three: Cohabitation rights – We are separated with two children, my ex is wealthy and I can force him to pay
    • Myth four: Cohabitation rights and jointly owned property – My children will benefit
    • Myth five: Cohabitation rights and law reform: if the law doesn’t change then you cannot protect your position

    LGBT community at higher risk?

    Cohabitation is also the most popular family model for same sex couples in the UK, even though same sex marriage and civil partnership can provide all the legal rights and protection currently unavailable to cohabiting couples. Maybe more still needs to be done to highlight the legal consequences of cohabitation specifically for the 202,000 individuals currently cohabiting with their same sex partners in the UK and about the positive legal benefits which flow from opposite and same sex marriage and civil partnership.

    Takeaway point: Cohabitation nation – unmarried couples on the rise, and at risk

    As a cohabiting couple, how do you protect yourself?

    There are things you can do if you are currently cohabiting or if you plan to do so in the future – you just need to know what and how. Understanding your rights is the key. If you are living together as a couple, you need to be aware that your 'legal' cohabitation rights are seriously limited should the relationship break down. Cohabitation laws have not evolved in the same way as laws for married couples and so if you are living together or plan to, you need get informed and get protected. A cohabitation agreement will help you both understand your rights and inform the way to 'run' your relationship from the outset. This will give you peace of mind and is especially important if children come along. Here is how to do it.

    Takeaway point: Cohabitation agreements (living together agreements) – 10 things you need to know and how to get started

    Call for reform and greater awareness

    The Government cannot ignore the call for reform any longer. Supreme Court Justices and High Court Judges have now joined the chorus. The law clearly needs to be reformed to protect all cohabiting couples so that our legal system reflects our changing society, the choices we make and modern attitudes to family structure, but until it does, it pays to get informed and get protected. #ABetterWay #Modern Families #LGBT

    Cohabitation agreements

    Click here for more information about family law and cohabitation questions.