Quarantine presented an opportunity to spend more time with our other halves, with many of us either working from home or having been furloughed.
While this additional time spent together was a welcome treat for many who would have otherwise never have got the chance, for some it was pressure on an already strained relationship.
In reality, it’s easy to ignore the metaphorical elephant in the room that is your relationship if you don’t see each other or your time together is limited but enter an effective house arrest together and problems will undoubtedly arise.
When the relationship does come to an end, as much as you might not want to, you’ll need to consider the legal implications.
Married couples are often considered worse off when it comes to breakups, however, cohabitants falling out of a relationship can be just as complex.
With this in mind, we take a look at the rights of someone who is cohabiting.
What is cohabiting
Cohabitation is a situation in which two people are living together unmarried but in a sexual or intimate relationship.
In most cases, as a cohabitant, you’ll have fewer rights than someone who is in wedlock. Couples who live together are often referred to as common law partners, but this is just another name for cohabitants.
If you’re wanting to ‘cover your back’ you may wish to get a living together agreement, otherwise known as a cohabitation agreement—this should also be accompanied by a declaration of trust, which acts a signifier of how any property should be shared should the relationship break down.
In terms of bank accounts, things are fairly self-explanatory. If you and your partner live together and have separate bank accounts, then the accounts are exactly that—separate. Neither party can gain access to the other person’s account unless you are named on that account.
If, however, the bank account is in the name of both partners, then either party can exercise full control over the account unless stipulated otherwise in the terms of agreement with the bank or building society.
In regard to debt, you will only be responsible for anything in your name. For any debts that have been taken out in joint names, however, you will be liable—as goes for any debts that you have acted as a guarantor.
In effect, if your name hasn’t been used, you won’t be affected!
However, many couples who aren’t married and cohabiting choose to share a joint bank account. Generally, each individual has the right to withdraw from the account any amount that is in the account. Usually, if a relationship ends, the amount left in the joint account is shared between partners. If one partner never used the account, whether paying or withdrawing, they may have trouble claiming any rights to it. Always seek expert advice if you’re not sure.
If you aren’t married and your partner is the tenant on a rented property, you’ll usually not have rights to stay in the house. Because of this, it is advisable for both parties to get a tenancy agreement, meaning if they do break up, they have equal rights and responsibilities.
Sole tenancies can be amended to joint tenancies if both the tenant and the landlord agree, which is one way of preventing the inevitable headache caused by rental disagreements.
If one cohabiting partner passes away and hasn’t left a will, then their estate will not automatically be assigned to the other partner.
If the two partners jointly own a property, then it will be inherited by the remaining partner.
If you wish to pass your estate on to your cohabitant partner, then you will need to make a will, otherwise they may not receive your property. In certain circumstances, if the surviving partner is able to prove that they will not be able to carry on without additional funds that had not been included in the will, they may be able to claim from the estate via the courts.
Regardless of relationship status, when breakups occur, parents still have to fulfil their duties to their children and act responsibly towards them.
Both parents are financially responsible and although it is preferable that some form of informal arrangement be made between the two parents. If needs be, you can make an application to the court for a child arrangements order or contact family law solicitors.
Just because you’re not married does not mean you’re without rights when it comes to a breakup. It is advisable, however, to follow the recommended steps when it comes to housing and banking.