For many couples Valentine’s Day is a day for reflecting on, and celebrating, their relationship. Many couples will also change their relationship status – that could be by moving in together or becoming engaged. These momentous occasions are very exciting but also have legal consequences that couples should be aware of.
Moving in together
In Scotland, couples who are living together as if they are husband and wife or as if they are civil partners are known as cohabitants. Depending on the circumstances of the relationship, a couple who hastily move in together – perhaps after the romance of Valentine’s Day – might fit into this definition!
The law provides cohabitants with financial entitlements. They have rights in relation to certain items of property and the right to make a claim for an award of capital on separation or on death. The law has been designed to cater for the huge variety of different cohabiting relationships.
If you or someone you know is considering moving in with a loved one, it is important to be aware of the legal implications. Some couples choose to enter into a cohabitation agreement to allow them to plan ahead and have some certainty about what the future will look like – both during the relationship and/or upon the relationship coming to an end. A cohabitation agreement can cover a variety of matters, such as how household costs will be split and how assets will be divided if the couple separated.
For the many people who will no doubt pop the question this Valentine’s Day, legally there will be no change in their relationship status. An engagement, however, may be one of the factors used to illustrate that a couple fall within the definition of cohabitants.
When a couple marry or enter a civil partnership, they have a greater range of property rights and entitlements on separation and in the event of the death of one the parties. Increasingly, couples are choosing to enter into pre-nuptial agreements. These types of agreements are entered into before parties are married or enter their civil partnership. They allow couples to record their agreement on a whole range of matters, including to take certain assets out of the matrimonial pot and how their assets will be divided if they divorce. Pre-nuptial agreements should, in particular, be considered as a useful planning tool for individuals who own assets such as properties or business interests before their marriage. Individuals or couples with children from previous relationships also find pre-nuptial agreements useful as a means of ringfencing pre-marital wealth.
For more information on cohabitants rights, cohabitation agreements and pre-nuptial agreements please contact our expert team of family lawyers.
Laura Nairn, Trainee Solicitor: firstname.lastname@example.org / 0141 221 8012