According to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), the number of cohabitating couples in the UK is growing faster than married couples or lone-parent families. In 2018, there were over 25% more cohabiting couples than there were ten years previously in 2008.
Despite this, the myth of the “common law marriage”, in which couples who cohabit have the same rights as married couples, still exists. This is simply not true. For example, if you live together and are not married, when you separate, you do not have an automatic right to:
- continue living in, or make a claim against, a property owned by your ex-partner. This is often an issue where only one of you own the property – even if the other contributed to the mortgage, bills etc.
- claim maintenance for yourself (although you can claim maintenance for any children you have together)
- claim a share of any money or savings that are in your ex’s name or a share of any pension they may hold
- inherit any estate owned by your ex-partner unless they have a will specifying differently
If you have been cohabiting and you separate without having a cohabitation agreement, you may, like many other cohabiting couples, find the task of dividing everything difficult – especially if you have children who will need to be provided for. You may think that going to court is the only option to sort out any issues, but it is not. Mediation is an ideal solution for separating cohabitees who are not covered by divorce laws.
Not only is mediation cheaper and quicker than going to court, it is also less stressful for you and your family and reduces conflict. With the help of a trained mediator, who will listen to you both, you will be able to explore solutions that will work for your unique circumstances. You are in control of the outcome – not a court. Mediation will help you come to an agreement that works for everyone – rather than a court imposed, one size fits all solution.
In mediation, you are encouraged to:
- talk to each other
- take account of your children’s thoughts through child inclusive mediation
- work together to find an acceptable workable solution
- find the best solution for you and your children
- focus on the future
Mediation can help you to make agreements about where you will live, who will retain certain other property and assets and your finances, such as who gets any money in the bank and other investments, and who will pay any bills, including mortgages, utility bills, credit cards, etc. More importantly, mediation can help you to sort out often complicated issues relating to children, such as where and how they will spend their time with each parent, how holidays will work and how costs related to your children will be shared.
Finally, mediation is private and confidential. Mediators will not disclose anything that is discussed with you to anyone else, and the discussions cannot be taken to court without your agreement. So, if you have been living together and are now separating and want to find a way that focusses on your future and that of your family, contact us now to make an appointment.