According to a recent study in the UK, the annual number of marriages have halved in comparison to statistics from 40 years previously, with more people opting for different living arrangements.
Indeed, cohabitating couples are the fastest growing types of relationships in the UK with more than 6 million cohabiting, double than 20 years previously.
However, despite some experts or media outlets claiming that the growth of the number of cohabitants signals the end of marriage, the two relationships are very different, especially in the eyes of the law.
Sadly, unlike marriage, which allows legal protection in the event of a split or divorce, cohabitation affords little or no legal protection following the breakdown of a relationship. The living arrangement also has no protection when one partner dies. Therefore, it is important if you are cohabiting to have some steps in place for protection.
Before cohabiting, there are a number of steps you can take to ensure that each member of the relationship is protected.
A cohabitation agreement can be exceptionally practical in providing protection. Such an agreement lays out who owns what from the beginning of the relationship; an agreement can protect savings, property and personal belongings before beginning cohabitation.
If deciding to buy property together, a cohabiting couple should decide how this can be done. Buying a property together can either see the property bought as joint tenants or tenants in common. Under joint tenancy, both partners own the whole property. If you are tenants in common, you each own a specified share.
Drafting a will is also key to protecting your partner. Many cohabitants make the mistake of believing they have the same rights as a married couple, however, without a will in place, under the current law, your partner may not have any right to your estate.
For more information on setting up a cohabitation agreement or for any legal advice regarding family law, contact us today using our online contact form.