Moving in together – make it work well by avoiding the pitfalls

16 June 2020

Moving in with your partner is an exciting new stage in your relationship.

We all want it to work well – and there are a few things we can do to try and make sure of it.

Our newest video Moving in together highlights six top tips that may help:

  • Do a trial run first
  • Learn to negotiate
  • Communication is key
  • Don’t score points
  • Sort out finances together
  • Figure out your boundaries

The video is on YouTube here.

The number of cohabiting (unmarried) couples living together has more than doubled from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.3 million in 2017. So before moving in, you may also want to know your rights are as a cohabiting couple should you end up separating.

Family lawyers Resolution carried out a survey which found two-thirds of cohabiting couples wrongly believe ‘common-law marriage’ laws exist when dividing up finances in such circumstances.

Many unmarried couples mistakenly believe that they have an interest in their partner’s assets upon separation, especially if they have contributed towards the costs of those assets.

Common examples include  someone who contributes towards the cost of a mortgage of a property held by their partner, or someone who helps purchase a car.

As the law stands, if an asset is in your partner’s name, you have no automatic right to a share of that asset, even if you have made financial contributions towards it.

This can, of course, produce very unfair results and can see one person at the end of a relationship in a bad financial position.

But there are legal means to help people ensure that their contributions towards an asset are protected if their relationship breaks down.

It’s recommended we seek this advice at the point of making such a contribution, or upon agreeing to make a regular contribution. Solicitors can then ensure the relevant agreements or ‘declarations’ are put in place to avoid unfairness.

The Citizens Advice Bureau highlights important points we need to know:

Cohabiting v Marriage: Six ways your rights differ

  • If one cohabiting partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything – unless the couple jointly own property. A married partner would inherit all or some of the estate.
  • An unmarried partner who stays at home to care for children cannot make any claims in their own right against their partner for property, maintenance or pension-sharing.
  • Cohabiting partners cannot access their partner’s bank account if the partner dies – whereas married couples may be allowed to withdraw the balance providing the amount is small.
  • An unmarried couple can separate without going to court, but married couples need to go to a court and get divorced to end the marriage formally.
  • Cohabiting couples are not legally obliged to support each other financially, but married partners have a legal duty to support each other.
  • If you are the unmarried partner of a tenant, you have no rights to stay in the accommodation if you are asked to leave – but each married partner has the right to live in the ‘matrimonial home’.

Lawyers urge all couples who intend to cohabit, or make a financial commitment to each other, to take legal advice.

The Law, it seems, has not caught up with our modern way of life and still distinguishes between married and unmarried couples.

Whilst the Government has announced several intentions to update the law, until this happens cohabiting couples must take extra care to ensure that they are not caught unawares when separating – which can leave people trapped in a relationship they do not want to be in.

If you’d like to talk through moving in together with one of our counsellors (who cannot give legal advice), either alone or with your partner, why not give our friendly appointments team a call on 01234 356350.

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