With nearly 90 per cent of couples now choosing to live together before marriage – or instead of marriage altogether – the question of how they can safeguard their assets in the event of a break-up is more relevant than ever.
Knowledge of prenuptial agreements is spreading. This is where a document can be drawn up after both parties have received informed legal advice, setting out how they will divide assets and settle other issues if they divorce further down the line. However, living together agreements remain less well known despite the high number of co-habiting couples.
The agreements are similar in nature to pre-nups. There is no such thing as common law wife, and co-habiting couples can make almost no use of the laws that govern couples if they are married, so it should detail how key issues like property and bank accounts should be dealt with. The terms for a living together agreement are a matter for the parties involved, so can be tailored to any situation, but it is extremely important that both parties seek independent legal advice. It can include details about property, payment of the mortgage, outgoings, ownership of contents, liability for debt, ownership of bank accounts and much more.
Twenty years ago, I guess the need for living together agreements was less clear cut. However, a recent survey showed nine out to ten couples now live together out of wedlock at some point. This statistic stands alongside the revelation in research by the Centre for Social Justice that nearly half of children can expect their parents to be separated by the time they are 16 – whether they are married or not. Some 46 per cent of children are born to unmarried mothers.
Marriage and commitment can stabilise families in some instances, but the figures suggest that break-ups are sadly inevitable for vast numbers of families, whether they have tied the knot or not. A living together agreement might just help ease the transition at the end of a relationship for the benefit of everyone.