Law gives co-habiting couples some food for thought . . .

It is a messy situation and really the public have to be advised about the pitfalls they face in plenty of time.

It is a messy situation and really the public have to be advised about the pitfalls they face in plenty of time.

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In the legal arena there is more and more talk about the way couples living together are getting themselves into court battles if the relationship breaks down.

It is a messy situation and really the public have to be advised about the pitfalls they face in plenty of time.

The reason this subject receives more headline space than it used to is because there are now double the number of co-habiting couples in the UK than in the mid-90s – an estimated 6 million people.

The simple fact is that without the protection that a marriage or a civil partnership gives there is no safety net and, unfortunately, many people are unaware of this.

Really, the old saying a stitch in time saves nine applies – so it is sensible to see a solicitor early on, so that if the worst does happen, both of you can take what is legally yours without the stress that goes with a legal fight.

A co-habitation agreement showing what assets couples have at the start of a relationship and how they should be divided if the relationship should finish is a sensible step.

It is worth knowing that a co-habiting person has no rights to stay in a home or take any assets not owned by them, so a cohabitation agreement or declaration of trust – laying out how assets would be divided if they split up – is so relevant.

As we’ve said before in this legal column, the family set-up is much more diverse than it was a decade or two ago and, whilst society has changed the law hasn’t really kept pace.

We hope this has provided food for thought because, as co-habiting continues to grow, all that can be done must be done to help those involved.