By Conal McGarrity
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Co-habitating Relationships and Resolving Separation Issues

There has been a dramatic rise in the number of cohabiting couples in the UK and Ireland in recent years. Some couples view the distinction between marriage and cohabitation as merely symbolic and choose to be in a relationship and live together happily unmarried.

A common misconception among cohabiting couples is that they hold the same legal rights as a married couple in the event of a separation. This is incorrect and cohabiting couples need to be aware of what steps they can take to ensure financial security and resolve parental responsibility issues in the event of a separation. In the event of a separation a Court cannot divide the finances and assets of a cohabiting couple on a 50/50 basis as would be the case if the couple were married. The law will not take account of the relationship, even if there is a history of financial support between cohabitees.

This will undoubtedly give rise to a turbulent separation. Arguments may arise in relation to ownership of certain things such as property and savings. If the cohabiting couple have children, there may also be a dispute about parental responsibility. The law does differ slightly when it comes to children. Cohabiting parents who separate will still have obligations to their children. However, complications in relation to contact and maintenance can arise and will be difficult to resolve in an amicable manner.

The best way to avoid these problems is to plan ahead. A cohabitation agreement is an effective method to clearly signpost the intentions of both cohabitees in the event of a separation. Making a cohabitation agreement will give both parties added security and provide certainty as to ownership issues. Property, savings, debt and other assets can be fairly divided in a cohabitation agreement. There can also be provision made for any children that the cohabitees may have. While a cohabitation agreement will not be legally binding immediately, a Judge will generally follow the terms of it if the agreement is fair to both parties.

While this may seem like an unromantic gesture to your other half, it is undoubtedly a pragmatic solution to the vulnerable position of cohabiting couples and is certainly a worthwhile step to take. At P.A. Duffy and Company our expert family law solicitors can help you and your partner to make a cohabitation agreement that is fair and provides security for both cohabitees. We also appreciate that you may want to amend your agreement as time passes.

This may be due to financial changes such as purchasing property for example. Our solicitors will be able to assist you with any amendments and will ensure that the fairness of the agreement to both parties is maintained. If you are currently in a cohabiting relationship and are resident in the UK or Ireland our expert solicitors can guide you through the process of making a cohabitation agreement in order to give you financial security and certainty in the unlikely event of a separation.

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