Statistically, more and more couples are living together bypassing marriage.

Many do so believing that by avoiding the ties of marriage, they will keep the financial side of the relationship far more simple. They also believe it will be easier to unravel the few financial ties between them, in the event that the relationship eventually breaks down.

Unfortunately, quite the opposite is very often the case. Unravelling the financial consequences of the breakdown of an unmarried relationship, is more often than not, far more complicated (and more expensive), than sorting out the financial issues between spouses on a divorce. This is because there is a fairly clear statutory framework which covers divorce. In disputes between non-married couples, there is no one Statute or formula which sets down a framework which Solicitors and Judges can refer to when going through the “unravelling” process. Much depends on case law, which changes from day- to-day.

As such, it is advisable for couples to enter into a written agreement before they begin living together, or at least very soon afterwards. This will set out their wishes as far as the shared home is concerned, and any expenditure which they undertake on that property. The agreement can also spell out what their intentions are so far as assets which they acquire jointly after they begin living together. Drawing up such an Agreement using the Collaborative Law process is ideal, as it involves the parties negotiating face to face. After all, when a couple is about to embark on a lifelong relationship, it isn’t really appropriate for each of them to have lawyers writing formal letters about the consequences of the relationship ending before it has really begun.

Most importantly of all, the agreement will cover what happens in the event of a relationship breakdown, when the two parties to the relationship will want to go their separate ways.

As with most things in life, if it is in writing, and it is done at the outset of the relationship, then it is probably a fairly accurate record of what the parties truly intended. If the couple rely upon what they each remember about their intentions, it is all too often the case that two very different versions of events are remembered by the two parties in years to come. Many unmarried relationships last for 10 years or more. Trying to remember accurately what was agreed 10 years down the line is probably unrealistic and can sometimes be coloured by subsequent events in the relationship.

Living Together Agreements can be straightforward to prepare, particularly using the Collaborative Law process and are becoming increasingly common. If well thought out and well drafted, they can provide belt and braces protection against future problems between unmarried partners. They will certainly have a great effect in saving legal fees if and when things do go wrong.

We can offer a fixed fee for a straightforward Living Together Agreement.

If you would like more information about Living Together Agreements, please email Elizabeth Hodder or telephone 01284 763333 to speak to us.

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