Cohabitation and the law
More and more people choose not to marry or enter into a civil partnership, but instead to cohabit.
People often refer to their common law partner, but there is no such concept in English law; and whilst a court has wide ranging powers as to how property and other assets should be divided when parties divorce or a civil partnership is dissolved, that same discretion does not apply when cohabitants split up.
In fact, the law relating to cohabitation is still based largely around principles of property law, such that if you buy a property together and it is put into your joint names, then unless your contributions to that property are specifically stated, the assumption is that you will each have contributed equally.
There are times now when the court can sometimes depart from that, but it is hoped further clarity will be given when the Supreme Court delivers its judgment in a case heard earlier this year of Kernott v Jones. This case concerns unmarried cohabitants who purchased a property together and did not specify their separate interests in it. The issue for the court to decide is how far consideration should be give to other factors, particularly financial contribution, when determining those interests. It is widely expected that the powers of the courts in this area will be extended, but that remains to be seen. In the meantime, if you are thinking of cohabiting and/or buying a property with your partner, or sadly find yourself in the position of splitting up, then it would probably be sensible to take some advice: Inghams have specialist family lawyers at all of our branches who can assist you with this.
Please also watch this space for a further update once we know what the Supreme Court has decided.