Civil Partnerships have historically been associated with providing same sex couples a way to formalise their relationship.
The law has of course, moved on since Civil Partnerships were introduced in 2005, with same sex couples instead able to marry since 2014. However, after the ruling made by the Supreme Court on 27th June 2018 heterosexual couples may now also have the option to enter into a Civil Partnership in the same way as same sex couples. This would provide an alternative option to heterosexual couples who do not agree with the ‘institution’ of marriage and what it represents, but still wish to formalise their relationship. From a family law perspective, this would open up the opportunity to secure the same legal rights and responsibilities as you get through being married.
However, many family lawyers feel that it is in relation to protecting the rights of cohabiting partners where the law needs to urgently make progress. If you are not married to or in a Civil Partnership, you are not currently afforded the same rights and protections under the law in this country. Despite the myth, there is no such thing as a Common Law wife. This means that upon separation, it is often the financially less secure party in the relationship who is left unsupported, with no rights to make claims against pension assets for example and with much more complicated legal procedures to go through in order to claim against capital assets, regardless of how long they have been together. This can have particularly adverse effects on an unmarried parent who has perhaps taken time out of their career to have children and as a result has reduced their own pension provision and earning capacity. The law which applies in these cases is predominantly Civil Law as opposed to Family Law. It is complicated and can be costly and legal advice should always be sought.
One of the ways in which an unmarried couple can regulate their position in respect of the family home and any other assets they may wish to protect is by entering into a Cohabitation Agreement. This document can set out how assets are to be divided if the couple should separate and it can remove some of the anxiety upon separation as well as reducing the potential cost of a complicated dispute.
The law relating to cohabiting couples is complicated and we would always recommend seeking advice from a specialist family solicitor. At Wolferstans we have a team of experts who can assist and advise you. Call us on 01752 292288.