What happens if I want to live with my partner, but protect my hard earned assets?

Moving in together can be a wonderful, exciting time for couples. However, with recent data estimating that almost half (42 per cent) of marriages end in divorce – and with many couples choosing to cohabit and live together without tying the knot – it is today more important than ever before to ensure your hard-earned assets are protected in the event of an unexpected breakup.

Depending on your circumstances, there are different routes you can take to ensure this is achieved.

Cohabitation agreements

A cohabitation agreement is a highly effective way of protecting the assets and wealth each person has brought into a relationship, safeguarding both parties from the possibility of leaving the relationship worse off than when they entered it. This is absolutely vital, as cohabiting couples have very limited legal rights, as there is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’ under English law.

These agreements can be drawn up to reflect the specific needs of a couple, including provisions such as how much each partner will contribute towards household expenditure. For obvious reasons, these agreements are ideal for younger, unmarried couples who are moving in together for the first time and can help to provide some much-needed certainty in the event of an argument or potential split.

Cohabitation agreements can even detail the specific actions which might constitute ‘the end of a relationship’ – such as one partner’s decision to move out, or another’s infidelity.

Pre-nuptial agreements

If you are moving in with someone who you intend to marry in the years ahead, it might be worth considering signing a pre-nuptial agreement.

In recent years, these agreements have been growing increasingly common in the UK, as divorce rates continue to rise and media reports regularly reveal to us the darker side of what might happen if court proceedings go pear-shaped.

In England and Wales, it is typically standard procedure that the Courts will divide any assets shared between a married couple equally during a divorce.

However, a pre-nuptial agreement can help to clearly spell out “who owns what” from day one, ensuring that each partner knows where they stand from the very outset and that the likelihood of uncertainties or arguments arising later down the line is minimised.

These documents are particularly important for individuals who are remarrying in later life and may wish to protect a settlement from their previous marriage, or have amassed a considerable fortune over the course of a long period of time in comparison with their new, oftentimes younger partner.

Whatever your circumstances, it is important to seek tailored advice from a specialist family law solicitor when setting up a cohabitation agreement or a pre-nup. To find out how our expert team at Carter Lemon Camerons can help, please speak to Francesca Flood.