Cohabitation

Living together brings its own legal challenges.

Often, moving in together “just happens” and it’s inconceivable that your relationship will ever end. This leads to few couples planning ahead.

As with much of life, pre-planning now can save much argument and aggravation later if your relationship breaks down or one partner dies.

Cohabitation agreements are an increasingly popular way to manage the practicalities of living together. These cover who brought what assets to the relationship; who pays the mortgage; and who looks after any children. Normally, where a couple of the same sex or opposite sex live together, then anything which they acquire during that time, excluding gifts or items which are inherited, will belong to them equally.

Cohabitation agreements are recommended if your personal circumstances are similar to one of the following:

  1. If you are wealthy or you have inherited or had significant assets gifted to you
  2. If you are involved in a family business, particularly a family business where the assets and shareholdings may change or evolve over time
  3. If you are intending to cohabit through buying a house together and one party is putting in money through a deposit.

Scottish law gives long-standing cohabiting couples certain rights. Although not afforded all the rights of married couples or civil partners, there are legal mechanisms in place to protect cohabitees after separation or death.

On separation, long-standing cohabitees can make a claim against their partner if they feel that they have been financially disadvantaged by the separation. This claim has to be brought within one year of separating.

A similar claim can be made on a partner's estate when they die, although such a claim must be made within 6 months of the death. The claims, in both cases, are made to the court.

When such claims are made, the court looks at the individual circumstances of each case. At a minimum, the court looks at who has been economically disadvantaged in the relationship, who has benefited from the relationship, and the impact on any children. Unlike a divorce, settlements have to be made in cash so can have a huge impact on your personal or business finances, especially where a family business forms the source of your income.

If you are thinking about cohabiting, or if a relationship which has involved cohabiting has come to an end, contact us to make sure your own personal position is secured.