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Major events, both good and bad, can be the tipping point for already strained relationships. Whether it’s the loss of a job, a holiday that didn’t go as planned or one half of a couple being glued to the World Cup for the next 4½ weeks!

Whilst most couples weather the storm, what happens if you conclude your relationship has ended? If you are married, then you may have a nuptial agreement or can rely on matrimonial legislation. However, if you live together with someone as if you were married, you won’t enjoy the same benefits as couples who are married or civil partners.

When it comes to property rights and how it is to be divided after separation, people who live together may have to rely on trust law and complex property law, as the legislation that applies to married couples and civil partnerships does not apply to cohabitees.

So what can cohabitees do to protect themselves?

At Debenhams Ottaway, we encourage couples considering living together to enter into a living together agreement. This agreement can regulate the different aspects of a couple’s relationship from the outset and deal with financial issues such as responsibility for household bills. The agreement covers how the financial relationship will alter if the couple have children. A living together agreement deals with the rights and obligations each party has to the other in the event their relationship ends.

Where cohabitees decide to purchase a property together, we recommend they record in what proportions they are to own it in a deed of trust. This document is clear evidence as to what the parties intended from the outset and binds them, unless they agree to change it. A deed of trust can be registered with the Land Registry, which means that notice is given to the outside world that it exists.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.