Divorce and Separation

Comprehensive guide to Divorce and Separation

A Brief History on Divorce Proceedings…….

The Matrimonial Causes Act was formed in 1857 and allowed ordinary people to divorce. Prior to this divorce was only available to men but was costly as it had to be granted by an Act of Parliament, therefore was only an option for the rich.

Under this new law of 1857, women divorcing on the grounds of adultery had to prove their husbands had been unfaithful as well as prove additional faults such as cruelty, rape and incest.

In 1923 a private members’ bill made it easier for women to petition for divorce for adultery, but it still had to be proved. Then, in 1937, the law was changed and divorce was allowed on other grounds including drunkenness, insanity and desertion.

However, the main changes came in 1969, when the Divorce Reform Act (Family Law Reform Act 1969) was passed. This enabled couples to divorce after if they had been separated for two years (or five years if only one of them wanted a divorce).

For further information on divorce and separation:

Divorce in the UK

This guide to divorce in the UK has been broken down to accommodate the varying jurisdictions across England and Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland, The Isle of Man and The Channel Islands.

Divorce in England and Wales

Obtaining a divorce in England and Wales is a relatively straightforward process. There may be factors that can complicate the process – disagreements over children and property distribution – but obtaining the divorce itself can be quite unproblematic. Even where children and property matters need to be settled, if both parties can agree on how these matters are to be settled, obtaining a divorce is relatively simple and does not require you to employ the services of a solicitor.

There are three steps. First, you need to make a petition, which means that you apply to a court with reasons why you should be granted a divorce. Second, you apply for a decree nisi. Third, six weeks and one day later you apply for a decree absolute.

Mediation

Where you can both agree on things, particularly about how your children will be looked after and how property matters will be dealt with, getting a divorce is far more straightforward than when there are matters to resolve. You may wish to consider using family mediation to help you resolve any differences. Legal aid may be available for mediation. Use this tool to help you work out if you are eligible for legal aid. Other sources of advice are: AdviceNow, The Citizens Advice Bureau and Law Centres.

The aim of mediation is to help you reach a settlement without having to go to court. If the worst comes to the worst and you have to appear in court, there is an expectation that you will have considered mediation. To find out whether your case will benefit from mediation, you will attend a Mediation Information Assessment Meeting (MIAM). You can attend this yourself or both you and your partner may attend.

Petitioning for Divorce

The person petitioning for divorce is known as the petitioner. The other party is known as the respondent. You need to have been married for at least one year. One of you must be living in England and Wales when you petition, or one of you must have lived in England and Wales in the year prior to the petition being made.

You need to show that your marriage has irretrievably broken down. Irretrievable breakdown of the marriage is technically the only ground for divorce. This breakdown then has to be evidenced. You do this by establishing one of the following facts: adultery, unreasonable behaviour, desertion, two years separation with consent or five years separation.

Those five facts are often referred to as grounds for divorce, which is inaccurate. They are facts that will evidence the only ground for divorce, the irretrievable breakdown of a marriage. Where your partner does not object to the divorce you will be entitled to an undefended divorce. If your partner objects the divorce is defended and you may be better with the help of a solicitor.

Adultery

This is where your spouse has had sex with another of the opposite sex. If you continue to live with your spouse for longer than six months after finding out about the adultery you can no longer use this to evidence the breakdown of your marriage.

Unreasonable behaviour

Technically what the law requires you to demonstrate is behaviour such that it is unreasonable for you to continue to live with your spouse. Thus the behaviour itself need not be unreasonable. There is no definitive list but the types of behaviour that would be accepted would include violence, drunkenness, psychological abuse and verbal abuse.

Desertion

There are several criteria to be met before your partner leaving you constitutes desertion. In addition to leaving you, it is necessary to show that there was not a good reason for this and that it was done for the purpose of bringing an end to your marriage.

The desertion has to have lasted at least two years. However, there may be attempts made by you and your partner to get back together. So this period of two years need only be two years in the last two and a half years. To look at this another way; in a period of two and a half years, you can spend six months of this together and the period apart still counts as desertion.

Two years’ separation with consent

What you are doing here is showing that you have separated and you both want to divorce; that is, you both consent to the divorce. 

Five years’ separation

Here the respondent has not consented to the divorce. You have, however, lived apart for five years.

Filing the Petition

A copy of the petition and guidance notes can be found at Justice.gov.uk.. You send the completed form to your nearest divorce court, along with the current court fee. If you are on a low income, you may get help with the fees – information and forms can be found on Justice.gov.uk. You will also need to include your marriage certificate – either the original or a copy from the Registry Office.

You need to send two copies of the form to the court. If you have named someone on the form with whom you allege your spouse has had an affair you need to include a third copy for that person.

Children and divorce settlements

In most situations a court is unlikely to make any orders concerning children under 16, or under 18 if still in education as it is deemed a better option for parents to reach an amicable agreement, maybe with legal advice and mediation. However if there is a dispute and an agreement cannot be reached outside of a court, then one party would need to issue an application to the court within the divorce proceedings seeking an appropriate order. The court will ensure the order has the best interests of the children at heart before approving.

Where Your Spouse Has Filed for Divorce

If your spouse has filed for divorce, you will be the respondent. The court will send the divorce petition to you. In addition, you will receive two other documents. First, the notice of proceedings form will give you your case number and instructions of what to do next.

Second, the acknowledgement of service form must be filled in and returned by you to the court. It gives you the option to agree or disagree with the divorce. Either way, return the form within 8 days. If you agree with the divorce it will simply go ahead. If you disagree with the divorce you will be defending the divorce. If you decide to defend the divorce, you need to fill in the ‘answer to a divorce‘ form. When you fill in the petition you are said to be “giving and answer” – ie giving an answer to the divorce petition.

You can if you wish file your own petition for divorce. To do this follow the procedure outlined above. It is usual in cases where a divorce is defended and/or where both spouses have petitioned for the court to hold a hearing.

Where a divorce is defended or where both spouses petition for divorce there will usually be a court hearing that you will both need to attend. If your case goes to court you are advised to seek legal advice.

The Decree Nisi

If you have petitioned for divorce and your spouse is not defending it, you can apply for what is called a decree nisi. If the divorce is defended you’ll need to wait until the hearing is completed. (Technically, you can apply before the hearing, but nothing will be granted until the hearing’s conclusion.)

The decree nisi is a provisional order for ending the marriage. Your marriage is not yet dissolved. The decree nisi is issued when the court is satisfied that the petitioner has met the requirements for a divorce. You do not need to attend court, although you may if you wish. You will be informed of the day on which your decree nisi will be pronounced in court. In court, the judge will say something like “I pronounce decree nisi in cases…”. Thus a large number of cases are dealt with simultaneously.

Decree Absolute

Following your decree nisi, you have to wait six weeks and one day before the decree absolute can be applied for. It is the decree absolute that dissolves the marriage. You should apply for the decree absolute within twelve months of getting the decree nisi. The period of six weeks and one day allows you and your spouse to make any necessary arrangements that you need to make, and technically allows anyone to make an objection to the divorce.

To apply for a decree absolute use the form known as a ‘notice of application for a decree nisi to be made absolute‘.

A decree absolute will be granted so long as the arrangements made for children are not a reason for a delay. Of course, this is inapplicable where there are no children. When you received you decree nisi the court will have sent to you a form confirming that the arrangements made for any children are not things that will cause delay.

Once the decree absolute is granted you are no longer married.

Divorce in Scotland

In Scotland there are two grounds for divorce.
The first is similar to that in England and Wales; irretrievable breakdown of the marriage which is evidenced in one of four ways (not five as in England):

  1. Where your spouse’s behaviour is such that it is unreasonable for you to continue living with him or her
  2. Adultery
  3. One year’s separation where you both consent.
  4. Two years’ separation where you or your spouse does not consent.

Where separation is the fact that is being relied on to evidence divorce, the court will ignore any period of up to six months where you live together following the initial separation. However, there must still be a separation period of one or two years. For example, if you both consent and you live together for three months after the initial separation, there will need to have been fifteen months that have elapsed from the time of the initial separation.

The second ground for divorce in Scotland, is where one of you has been issued with and interim gender recognition certificate. Such a certificate is issued where a transsexual person has applied to the Gender Recognition Panel and is starting the process for legal recognition of his or her gender.

Where there are no children involved, or where arrangements are agreed by both of you for how your children will be cared for, divorce is relatively straight-forward. Where the arrangements for children cannot be agreed and/or where there are property disputes, the process for gaining a divorce may be much slower.

How to Obtain a Divorce in Scotland

Unlike in England and Wales where it is necessary to have been married for at least twelve months before you can petition for divorce, there is no such time limit under Scottish law. In Scotland there are two procedures that can be used for gaining a divorce. The first is referred to as a do-it-yourself divorce or the simplified procedure. The second is known as ordinary divorce.

There are restrictions on the use of the do-it-yourself procedure. It can be used only in the following circumstances:

First, your marriage has broken down and you are evidencing this by one or two years’ separation or one of you has been issued with an interim gender recognition certificate.

Second, all of the following apply to you:

  • The divorce is undefended
  • There are no children under 16
  • Neither of you is making a claim for finance or property
  • Neither of you has an illness that makes managing your affairs difficult
  • There is no religious impediment that would prevent the remarriage of either of you

For more advice go to the Scottish Courts’ website  or the Citizens Advice Bureau in Scotland.

All the forms that you need to go through a do-it-yourself divorce can be found on the Scottish Courts and Tribunals website. There are court fees to pay and there may be exemptions. You can apply either to the Sheriff Court or the Court of Session and fees vary accordingly. For up to date fees, information about exemptions and the fee exemption forms go to the Scottish Courts website.

The ordinary divorce procedure is more expensive than a do-it-yourself divorce. If you are on low income civil legal aid may be available. The procedure is also more complex than that for the simplified procedure; therefore, you will require the assistance of a solicitor.

Whichever procedure is used, once granted you are given a divorce decree, which is your proof of divorce.

Divorce in Northern Ireland

To petition for divorce, you must have been married for at least two years. Cases are dealt with in the County Court or High Court. You can act without a solicitor; however, in certain cases it may be advisable to seek legal help.

There are five grounds for divorce. You can petition on one or more grounds. The grounds are:

  • Two years separation with consent
  • Five years separation without the consent of one spouse
  • The behaviour of the first spouse makes it unreasonably for the other spouse to continue to live with the first spouse
  • Adultery
  • Desertion by one spouse for a continuous period of at least two years

The court will look to see that the marriage has irretrievably broken down.

The Process

You can act for yourself. There may be some cases where their complexity means you are better off engaging a solicitor. This is particularly the case where the divorce is not consented to or following the issue of the petition the respondent decides to defend the divorce (the petitioner is the spouse who seeks the divorce; the other spouse is known as the respondent). If you are acting for yourself, some useful information is available on the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals Service website.

There are a number of forms that you require. They are:

  • Petition (Form M1)
  • Where there are children, statement of arrangement for children (Form M4)
  • Notice of proceedings (Form M5)
  • Acknowledgement of Service (Form M6).

The divorce process begins once you have lodged the petition and paid the correct fee. There are a number of documents that you will be required to lodge with your petition.

You will need to serve the petition on the respondent. The court will send you a certified copy of the petition. You can do this by ordinary first class post. You can if you wish use a process server. You can get details of process servers from the matrimonial office which is located at The Royal Courts of Justice, Chichester Street, Belfast, BT1 3JF.

Where the divorce is not contested, you will need to attend court (the respondent need not attend), take an oath (or affirm where you have no religious conviction) and verify the truth of what is in your petition. Where the court is satisfied with the evidence presented and where arrangements are in place for children it will grant a decree nisi, sometimes referred to as a conditional order. You are not yet divorced. You still need to obtain the decree absolute.

You can apply for a decree absolute after six weeks and one day from the issue of the decree nisi. When the decree absolute is issued your marriage has been dissolved. If you, as the petitioner, do not apply for a decree absolute the respondent is able to do so after giving notice to you and waiting three months further beyond the six weeks and one day.

If the divorce is contested by the respondent, both parties will need to attend court. As the divorce is contested the hearing will involve giving evidence and being cross-examined by the respondent’s solicitor. In such a case, you should have legal representation.

Divorce in the Isle of Man

Introduction

A petition for divorce can be granted after one year of marriage. Again there is a similar residence qualification as for the Channel Islands jurisdictions. One of you must be living in the in the Island when the application was filed or one of you must have been habitually resident in the Island in the twelve months prior to the date on which the application was filed. Just note that in the Isle of Man the person petitioning is known as the applicant; the other spouse is still the respondent.

Grounds for Divorce

You must establish the irretrievable breakdown of your marriage due to one of the following: 

  • The respondent’s adultery.
  • Behaviour by the respondent that makes it unreasonable for you to continue to live with him or her.
  • The respondent’s desertion.
  • Two years separation with consent.
  • Five years separation.

Documents needed to petition for divorce can be found on the Isle of Man Courts of Justice website. This page also gives further advice about seeking a divorce and provides a list of documents that you will be required to provide the court with. There is a fee but the Isle of Man Courts of Justice advise that you contact the court at the address below to find out the fee prevailing at the time that you wish to petition: Isle of Man Courts of Justice, Deemsters Walk, Douglas, Isle of Man,

IM1 3AR. Fee remissions may be possible, again, go to the Isle of Man Courts of Justice website for help.

In the Isle of Man you are first issued with a provisional decree (the equivalent of a decree nisi) and six weeks later you can apply for the provisional order to be made final (the equivalent of a decree absolute). You must do this within twelve months of the provisional decree being granted.

Again, further information of relevance to the respondent is available on the Courts of Justice website.

You may come across an official named a Deemster. On the Isle of Man a Deemster is a type of judge.

Divorce in the Channel Islands

Under the law governing divorce in Jersey, divorce proceedings cannot be started until you have been married for three years.

As in other areas of the UK, the person petitioning for divorce is the petitioner and the other spouse is the respondent. A Jersey court will have jurisdiction where both parties are domiciled in Jersey when the proceedings start or where either the petitioner or respondent was habitually resident in Jersey for the period of one year ending with the date that the petition is presented. Habitual residence is where you usually live. So to divorce in Jersey at least one of you must have been living there for the year preceding the presentation of your petition.

Grounds for Divorce

You must prove one of the following:

  • The respondent’s adultery and that you find it intolerable to continue to live with the respondent.
  • The respondent’s desertion for a period of two years.
  • Behaviour by the respondent that makes it unreasonable for you to continue to live with him or her.
  • One year separation with consent.
  • Two years separation.
  • The respondent is of unsound mind and has been receiving treatment for a period of five years prior to the petition being presented.
  • The respondent is serving an imprisonment sentence for a period of fifteen years or more.

All the forms that you need can be found on the Jersey Government website, as well as the most current court fees.

Where the Registrar is satisfied that all is in order a decree nisi will be granted. You can apply for the decree absolute six weeks and one day following the granting of the decree nisi.

Divorce in Guernsey

Introduction

Under the law prevailing in Guernsey, there is no minimum period during which the marriage must have existed before a divorce can be sought. The requirement of residence are similar as for Jersey, at least one of you must be resident in Guernsey or have resided in Guernsey for twelve months prior to the petition being lodged.

To divorce in Guernsey your divorce petition must be filed through an advocate. For more information visit the Royal Court of Guernsey website.

Grounds for Divorce

To divorce in Guernsey you must establish one of the following:

  • The respondent’s adultery.
  • Behaviour by the respondent that makes it unreasonable for you to continue to live with him or her.
  • The respondent’s desertion.
  • Two years separation with consent.
  • Five years separation.

A decree nisi will be issued after a minimum of sixty days. The decree absolute is issued after one month and one day following the granting of the decree nisi.

Pre and Post Nuptial Agreements

What are Pre/Post Nuptial Agreements?

  • A Pre-nuptial is a legally binding agreement that takes place before a couple marry
  • A Post – nuptial is a legally binding agreement that takes place after a couple marry.
  • Either of these agreements may also be appropriate for a couple who have spilt up and have got back together again.

Why are they important?

  • The agreement can help define what happens to the property, finances and businesses should the couple separate or divorce.

Why you may consider having them?

  • To protect family business or assets. This is especially important if one of the couple has shares in or owns a family business.
  • Not every couple feel that they need the formality of a Pre or Post Nuptial Agreement.

Information for you and your partner:

  • Post Nuptial agreements are legally enforceable in England and Wales and they also carry the same burden as maintenance agreements
  • In Scotland, Pre-Nuptials are legally enforceable and are generally used as a tool to protect inheritances. An example of this is that if you inherit an article, say an antique bookcase then that would not be counted as a matrimonial asset, so it cannot be divided as part of any divorce settlement. But if you sell the bookcase and you buy another one then it will be taken as being part of the matrimonial assets and will be divided accordingly.

If you have a Post Nuptial agreement, then it does not matter which part of the United Kingdom you live in, it needs to reviewed regularly by a Lawyer.

Useful link:  Mills and Reeve – Pre-nups and post-nups

Termination of a Civil Partnership

Introduction

Same sex partners in the UK have been able to enter into a civil partnership since the 5 December 2005. The rights and obligations of civil partners are virtually identical to those of married couples.

To enter into a civil partnership:

  •  the parties must be of the same sex
  •  neither party must be married in in a civil partnership
  •  the parties must each be at least sixteen years of age
  •  the parties must not be within the prohibited degrees of relationship (ie they must not be too closely related)

Terminating a Civil Partnership

The civil partnership equivalent of divorce is known as dissolution of the partnership. The law procedure is identical to that for divorce with the exception that adultery is not one of the factors that will evidence that the partnership has irretrievably broken down. The form for filing your petition is the same as the one used for divorce.

A civil partnership may also be annulled. Again, the law and procedure are the same as for annulling a marriage with the exceptions that non-consummation and venereal diseases will not render a civil partnership voidable.

It is also possible to gain a judicial separation if you are in a civil partnership. Once again the procedure is that same as for divorce.

Annulment – Other Ways in Which a Marriage May End

Divorce is the usual way in which a marriage is dissolved. However, there are other ways in which the parties to a marriage may bring it to an end.

Annulment

It will be quite rare that a marriage is annulled. Indeed, in England and Wales, there are about 200 annulments a year and the number is declining. It does happen, but the circumstances for gaining an annulment are quite restricted.

The law is very similar throughout the UK. A marriage may be annulled in one of two circumstances. First, where the marriage is void. If a marriage is void, it means it was never valid. Second, where a marriage is voidable. If a marriage is voidable, it means it was valid to begin with but there is something that exists that allows a court to annul it.

England and Wales

Void Marriages

A marriage is void if one of the following circumstances:

  • You and your partner are within the prohibited degrees of relationship. To put this more simply, you are too closely related – brother and sister – for instance. A list of the prohibited degrees can be found here. These prohibited degrees apply throughout the UK and they apply equally to civil partnerships.
  • You and your partner are of the same sex.
  • You or your partner was under 16 at the time of the marriage.
  • One of you was already married or in a civil partnership at the time of the marriage.

Voidable Marriages

  • Your marriage was not consummated. Following the marriage you must have sex with the person you married in order to make the marriage valid. The non-consummation can arise because of illness or wilful refusal.
  • One of you did not give proper consent to the marriage – for example, your consent would be considered to be defective if you were forced into the marriage.
  • At the time of the marriage, one of you was suffering from a mental disorder. This did not prevent you from validly giving consent, but it did render you unfit for marriage.
  • One party to the marriage had a sexually transmitted disease at the time of the marriage.
  • When you got married, the woman was pregnant by another man.
  • Following the marriage, one of you was issued with an interim gender recognition certificate. The petition must be sought within six months of the issue of the certificate.
  • At the time of the marriage, the respondent had changed gender.

With regards to grounds 2,3,4,5 and 7, there is a three year time limit for petitioning for nullity.

How to Obtain an Annulment

You can apply for a nullity at any time following the wedding. The first step is to complete a nullity petition. Send two copies of this petition to the divorce court that is nearest to you. Guidance notes are also available to help you complete the nullity petition. There is a fee; up to date court fees should be checked, and information is also available if you are on a low income.

If the other party agrees that the marriage should be annulled – he or she has eight days to agree – you then apply for a decree nisi (sometimes called a conditional order). You will also need to make a statement that confirms the details of your nullity petition. You use this form if you are petitioning because your marriage is void and this form if you claim it is voidable.

Six weeks after the decree nisi has been granted you can apply for the decree absolute. This is sometimes called a decree of nullity. Use this form to apply for a decree absolute. There is no fee for this from the 1 July 2013 onwards.

If you have children you will have to show that there are arrangements in place for their care. Fill in the ‘statement of arrangements for children’ form and send two copies to the court with your petition.

Scotland

Further information on ending a marriage in Scotland can be found on the Scotland Citizens Advice website.

Northern Ireland

Again the law is similar to the described above. The forms that you need are available from the website of the Northern Ireland Courts and Tribunals service, including a very useful nullity petition check-list of the documents you require to send to the court. The website is not always easy to navigate so if you have difficulty you may want save time and simply contact your local court.

Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man

The law is similar in these UK territories. For more information see: Jersey, Guernsey and Isle of Man. Because the annulment of a marriage is so rare, to get any documents you may need it may be necessary to contact the courts services on these islands if you think you may have grounds to annul your marriage. The alternative is to seek legal advice.

Judicial Separation

There may be occasions when you do not want to go through a divorce but there are clearly challenges that you are facing in your marriage. There may also be reasons such as religious reasons for example, where divorce cannot be contemplated. In such circumstances, judicial separation is something that you might consider. Judicial separation does not dissolve the marriage. Judicial separation merely removes the obligation of you and your spouse to live together. Judicial separation will not affect the terms of any wills that you and your spouse may have but it does prevent either of you inheriting from the other if he or she dies intestate, i.e. without making a will.

To gain a judicial separation in England and Wales order you have to establish one of the five grounds that evidence divorce. However, in this case there is no need to prove the irretrievable breakdown of the marriage and you do not have to wait until you have been married for a year. The form you use for petitioning for a judicial separation is the same as the one you use for divorce.

Judicial separation is possible in the other countries of the UK. The law is very similar to that in England and Wales. However, because judicial separation is so rare the relevant forms that you require are not so freely available. Therefore, if you want to do things yourself, you will need to contact the courts service in the country where you reside. Alternatively, you may wish to seek the help of a legal practitioner.

Court fees apply and should be checked before submitting forms.

Matrimonial Law

There may be a few minor differences between some aspects of matrimonial law in Wales compared to England, but in Scotland they use slightly different terms and a slightly different legal constitution:

  • In England and Wales the term County Court is replaced in Scotland by The Sherriff Court
  • In England and Wales the term Petition is replaced in Scotland by an Initial Writ (this is used if you are divorcing in the Sheriff Court, but Summons if you divorce in the Court of Session. It should also be noted that in Scotland these are termed as legal pleadings not court forms as they are in England and Wales).
  • In England and Wales the term Ancillary relief is replaced by the term Financial Provision in Scotland
  • In England and Wales the terms Petitioner and Respondent are replaced in Scotland by Pursuer and
  • The term Form A (in England and Wales does not have an equivalent Scottish term.
  • In England and Wales the terms Decree nisi and Decree absolute are used in Scotland there is only one degree of divorce and that is granted when all of the financial issues have been resolved.

In a Nutshell…….

  • In Scotland there appears to be a more predictable outcome that lies less on the flexibility of a Judge’s decision in English and Welsh Family Courts.
  • As there is a greater degree of certainty of the outcome, there appears to be a higher rate of divorce cases that are settled through cooperation.
  • One of the other biggest differences in Scotland is that each of the divorcing partners has to contract to a binding settlement directly with each other without necessarily seeking Court approval.
  • Since 2006, a simplified procedure has been made available. If the financial matters are agreed and the couple are divorcing simply on the grounds of separation and there are no children under the age of 16, they simply complete a tick box form pay £90, hand it to the court and they are divorced.

If you are English or Welsh and your spouse was Scottish and you lived in Scotland and have decided to divorce you will need the support and direction of a solicitor who is familiar and up to date with Scottish Matrimonial Law. This is very important as there needs to be a decision over which country will have jurisdiction of the divorce process.

Useful Links: Morton Fraser Lawyers – A guide to Matriomonial Law

Cohabitation

What is Cohabitation?

Many people decide that they do not need to get married to live with and have a fulfilling relationship with their partner. A lot of people may believe that being a common law spouse provides the same financial security as being married.

How to overcome the differences?

In order to benefit from financial security in the event of separation or the death of partner the couple need to assess areas of finances, property and childcare.

They can use agreements or declaration of trust arrangements that are legally binding and can be used to determine who owns what assets and who is entitled to what.

What is a declaration of trust?

This is sometimes known as a ‘deed of trust’. It sets out exactly what each partner is bringing to the relationship and what happens to the assets if they need to be divided. It can even set out who pays for certain bills and who has ‘added extra value’ in the form of home improvements. It also includes details about paying off debts, joint accounts and financial arrangements for any children.

A cohabitation or ‘living together’ agreement covers day to day matters such as the way the household is run.

Property

For couples that are cohabiting division of property may not be easy to sort out. For married couples or people in civil partnerships each person has equal rights no matter who bought it or who pays for the mortgage or who maintains it.

If the couple are cohabiting and if the property is owned by one of the couple, it has to be decided if the other partner has an interest in the property (if they paid towards the mortgage or for building work) if these contributions are not set out in the declaration or trust then they may find that they have no rights to have a share of the home if the relationship breaks down.

The other problem is that a cohabiting partner has no legal right to automatically inherit the home or property on the death of their partner unless it is the declaration of trust. To be safe it is also good to make sure that these details are added to a will that is professionally drawn up by a solicitor.

Pensions

Unmarried couples do not have automatic entitlement to their deceased partner’s pension

Savings and Investments

These need to be acknowledged in the declaration of trust and the will as a partner will not have any automatic right to these monies in the event of the death of their partner.

If there is no declaration of trust or Will, then property, investments and savings will automatically go to the deceased next of kin. There also need to be guardianship provision for a child/children in the event of the death of a parent.

Useful Links: News Article (August 2014) How couples can protect their financial interests when cohabiting