I’ve invited James Maguire, a leading expert in Family and International Family Law, to guest blog on Common Law.

By way of background, we have just completed a leasehold sale & purchase for a client in London.The client was selling a property in his sole name & using a significant equity uplift to assist buying a new property with his girlfriend. We advised him to sign a Declaration of Trust which would ensure the unequal deposit contributions would be reflected when the property was eventually sold.

However, on taking his instructions, it became apparent that the continuing contributions to mortgage payments & maintenance would also be unequal. This cannot be satisfactorily reflected in a Declaration of Trust and therefore we referred our client to James for specialist advice.

What if we separate?

Cohabiting couples have no such rights regardless of the number of years they have been together and whether or not they have children.

Where cohabiting couples jointly own their family home, the property is likely to be divided 50:50, unless they made a written legal agreement at the time of purchase saying in what proportions they own it.

As the law stands, the only solution is either to marry or enter a civil partnership, or to draw up a Cohabitation Agreement.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

It sets out who owns what, in what shares and clarifies how you will split your property, its contents, personal belongings, savings and other assets should the relationship break down. It can also cover how you will support any children as well as bank accounts and debts.

The agreement can also look at the interim arrangements for you and your partner, for example, who will manage your day-to-day finances whilst you live together, how much each is to contribute to rent or mortgage and bills and so on.

For any such agreement to carry weight, it is very important that each of you seek independent legal advice. Before seeing a Solicitor, you can discuss this together and set out what the agreement is to look like. This can then be drafted and the other partner invited to agree with his or her own Solicitor.

For more information about Cohabitation Agreements, please get in touch with James Maguire & Co on 01625 544653 or www.family-law.co.uk