In the decade from 2008 to 2018, the number of cohabiting couples in Great Britain increased by 25.8%. Meanwhile, marriage rates for opposite-sex couples hit a record low in 2017, according to ONS data.
More people are deciding to live together and often have children without marrying or entering into a civil partnership.
While many couples are happy to share their lives together without tying the knot, they are legally vulnerable compared to their married counterparts.
An old-fashioned legal system?
Society may be moving on, but the laws governing unmarried partnerships have not been updated to reflect this. Contrary to popular belief, the status of ‘common law marriage’ does not exist in the UK, so if you are unmarried and you split with your partner, you wouldn’t be legally entitled to anything financially or to a share in their property (unless you co-own it).
The legal case of Curran v Collins  demonstrates this lack of legal rights. Pamela Curran and Brian Collins met in 1977 and were together for 33 years.
Upon their separation, despite a lengthy and prolific court case, she was entitled to neither a share in the property they had both lived in, nor the dog kennel business he owned.
You can protect yourself
Despite the legal barriers facing unmarried couples, there are ways to protect yourself. One such way is through a cohabitation agreement. This is a legally binding contract with your partner that covers such matters as household expenses, ownership of property and how your money and assets would be divided in the event of a relationship breakdown.
This can be updated throughout your relationship to accommodate any changes in circumstances.
While it might feel ‘unromantic’ to think about you and your partner splitting up, it’s helpful to think about a cohabitation agreement the way you would about an insurance policy.
You don’t expect your house to burn down, but it doesn’t stop you taking out buildings insurance, just in case.
With the COVID-19 pandemic putting a serious dent in the hopes of first-time buyers, young people might choose to pool their resources and invest in a property together.
If you do decide to take this route, it is equally important to draw up a cohabitation agreement to determine who owns the property and in what proportions, how the mortgage is paid and what happens if a co-buyer wants to leave the property and take back their financial share.
Here to help you protect your finances
Whether you’re cohabiting in a rented property, want to purchase a property with your partner or are looking to co-buy a home with friends, it’s essential to cover yourself. Talk to us and we can help you protect your finances.
Your home may be repossessed if you do not keep up repayments on your mortgage.
As with all insurance policies, conditions and exclusions will apply
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