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Formal arrangements at the start of your relationship

Many think that family solicitors are only consulted if a relationship breaks down or other family disputes arise. However, we can have an important role at the outset of a new relationship. We can help you to make sensible provision in the event that your relationship should ever break down in the future. We can help you to manage whatever needs sorting out should a breakdown happen so that both you and your partner/spouse can separate as quickly and painlessly as possible and with the maximum dignity.

It may sound unromantic to apply your mind to your relationship or your marriage breaking down when you are just starting out. However spending time agreeing what will happen should things ever go wrong is a very sensible way forward. When a relationship breaks down the emotional impact makes it difficult to communicate. There may be hostility which leads to confrontation. Often having a planned and agreed strategy for what happens if the relationship breaks down can save much heartache if that breakdown actually occurs. Those arrangements for the provision on the breakdown are much easier to discuss and agree at a time at the outset when you are both on excellent terms.


If you are planning to marry then it is possible to enter into a contract with your future spouse called a Prenuptial agreement. This means that you will each consult solicitors and work towards making a formal arrangements for what happens if the marriage should ever come to an end. We can help you to set out the details of what is to happen in the unfortunate event of the marriage breaking down. You can set out your intentions and work to put together a framework for if the marriage should ever end. You cannot oust the courts when your marriage breaks down but the formal properly drafted prenuptial agreement is likely to bind you both to the agreement for those arrangements on divorce. The courts are likely to uphold your prenuptial agreement if it has been made properly with legal advice and preparation ( although the length of marriage and the birth of children can have an impact upon the view taken about the agreement)


Cohabitation or Living Together Agreement

Couples who live together and do not marry are far more vulnerable if their relationship breaks down. This is because there is currently no specific law which governs the breakdown of the "living together" or cohabitation relationship. The only route to resolving a dispute between an unmarried couple is under the law relating to property ownership if one or both own property OR under children law if there are children.

Many believe that once they have lived together for a period of time they become "Common Law husband and Wife" and thereby have legal rights and claims against each other much the same as a married couple. This is an urban myth which is simply not true or correct. The law does not recognise the status of living together by providing an appropriate set of remedies for cohabiting couples.

A living together agreement entered into at the start of your relationship can act as an enforceable contract if the relationship breaks down. The intention is to reach agreement and set out what is to happen in detail. If the relationship ends the split can be managed in accordance with that agreement and dispute can be avoided.

Deed of Trust

If you are buying a property with a view to living together then you should obtain legal advice. As well as considering a Living Together or Cohabitation Agreement we also strongly recommend obtaining a deed of Trust setting out formally who will be entitled to what interest or share in any property. This can by done by our conveyancing team.


When your family situation changes and you are intending to live together or marry you should consider making an up to date Will which clarifies your intentions should anything happen to you.


If you need further individual advice please call us on 0845 482 0641 and we can discuss your problems in more detail

Team members

Gail Cook
Chartered Legal Executive

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