Although more people than ever are living together as a couple without formalising their relationship through marriage or civil partnership, there remains some ambiguity about the law on cohabitation and the legal status of cohabitants. For example, many people hold the misconception that there is such a thing as common law marriage, when in fact common law marriage has never existed in Scots law. While the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 made some important updates to the law by introducing some basic rights for cohabitants in certain circumstances, it remains the case that cohabitants are granted far less legal protection than married couples or civil partners. However, by being informed of the law on cohabitation and taking steps to prepare for the future, cohabitants can ensure their interests are protected.
Legal advice on cohabitation in Scotland
In Scotland, cohabitants are granted some limited rights if their relationship comes to an end or when a cohabitant dies. These include a right to financial provision if one partner suffered financial disadvantage because of contributions they made during the relationship, such as giving up a career to care for their children. A cohabitant also has the right to apply for an award from their deceased partner’s estate if there isn’t a will. It’s important to be timely if seeking to exercise these and other rights granted to cohabitants. For example, an application for financial provision needs to be made within one year of the cohabitation ceasing, while an application for payment out of a deceased cohabitant’s intestate (no will) estate must be made within six months of the date of the death.
For those looking for more certainty about the future and wishing to clarify their position, a cohabitation agreement offers a practical way of putting safeguards in place and protecting against any future conflict. It is a type of contract that sets out what is to happen to assets and property in the event of separation. A further way that cohabitants can protect their interests is by making a will that clearly sets out what is to happen to their property and how their surviving partner is to be provided for when they die.
Contact our Family Law Solicitors – Ayrshire, Scotland
Whether you are looking for assistance negotiating, drafting or reviewing a cohabitation agreement, or seeking to claim rights granted to cohabitants, we can help. We strive to go above and beyond what is expected of a lawyer and take pride in being trusted advisors to our clients. Whatever advice and help you need concerning your relationship or family, please don’t hesitate to contact our approachable, loyal and reliable solicitors.
We have been serving the local community for over 30 years and are one of Ayrshire’s most respected law firms, with clients based across the county, in Saltcoats and West Kilbride, Fairlie and Kilwinning, to Irvine and Prestwick, Kilmarnock and Kilmaurs.
Legal Aid may be available.