What are cohabitee’s rights?
Despite popular belief, in England and Wales there is no such thing as “common-law marriage”. It makes no difference how long you may have lived with your partner – you do not acquire the same rights as if you were married. So what are cohabitee’s rights?
There is no automatic right to claim against your cohabitee’s property or assets on a separation. In the event of a separation if there is a dispute about entitlement the courts will look at legal ownership. If one party claims that they have a share different to the legal ownership they will have to prove it and that can be difficult and expensive. The court will look at written evidence. Often in personal relationships there is no written evidence. The courts will then look at the parties’ actions and their intentions. Even if you have made payments towards a deposit or mortgage, that on its own may not mean you have a right to a share of property.
Other assets will not generally be considered. For example, on divorce pensions are often shared but a cohabitee has no right to claim on the other’s pension.
This area of law is complex. Dispute can be expensive and take a long time to resolve. If you are going to live with someone it is often sensible to have a cohabitation agreement setting out your intentions in the event of a future separation. Such an agreement can also state how your finances will be dealt with whilst you are living together, making clear what contributions each of you will make. These can be the best way to protect yourself financially as a cohabitee.