Latest figures from the Office of National Statistics have revealed the continued decline in the sanctity of marriage.

In 2002, married people amounted to 54.8% of the population aged 16 and over whilst in 2015 it had dropped to 50.6% of the population aged 16 and over. These figures coincide with the rise in unmarried couples cohabiting. In 2002 6.8% of the population aged 16 and over were cohabiting in contrast to 9.5% in 2015.

While the number of couples entering in to a marriage drops and cohabiting unmarried couples rises parties must ensure that they are legally protected in the event of the sad breakdown of the relationship. Contrary to popular belief unmarried couples have very little legal protection in the event of the demise of the relationship. The weaker party, often women who have the children, can find themselves facing real financial hardship.

In England and Wales married couples have a right to a share of the financial assets. That is not necessarily the case with unmarried couples regardless of the longevity of the relationship. What the courts can do is use various bits of legislation such as property, land and trust of law. Law commission reports have made numerous recommendations for reform but there are no proposed plans from the government to enact this.

There is however a far easier and more cost efficient way for unmarried couples to protect their future selves. Cohabitation Agreement’s set out who owns what and in what proportions and is signed by both parties to the relationship. The parties set out how assets are divided, money distributed and can also cover how the children will be supported in the event of the breakdown of the relationship. Furthermore, they can be used to set out how the parties shall manage day to day during the course of the relationship and how the every day finances are met such as mortgage payments or bills.

A Cohabitation Agreement is legally binding as long as it is properly affected. That means that both parties take independent legal advice upon the contents prior to it being drawn up, approved by both parties and their representatives before signing the same.

Many feel the idea of Cohabitation Agreements are unromantic but there is nothing more unromantic than arguing over finances either during the relationship or following separation. Sadly, disagreements over finances often also causes difficulties between the parties and can impact upon the arrangements for the children and the parties reaching agreements as to when the “non-resident” parent sees the children.

Farleys can prepare and advise in relation to a Cohabitation Agreement dealing with straight forward or complex issues. For further information on Cohabitation Agreements or any other family law matter please call 0845 287 0939 or complete an online enquiry form.