This week, CAB’s Tom Togher has ad­vice for peo­ple liv­ing to­gether who are not wed

Macclesfield Express - - SCHOOLS NEWS -

A RE­CENT court case about pen­sion rights serves as a good re­minder that peo­ple who live to­gether as a cou­ple rather than get­ting mar­ried (or en­ter­ing a civil part­ner­ship) have fewer rights. This is called co­hab­i­ta­tion.

This re­cent case in­volved pen­sion rights for an oc­cu­pa­tional pen­sion scheme when a part­ner dies. Even though the court ruled in favour of the sur­viv­ing part­ner in this case (a North­ern Ir­ish Court) if you co­habit you should check with your pen­sion provider di­rectly.

Many schemes al­low you to name an un­mar­ried part­ner as a ben­e­fi­ciary – and it is much safer if you do so prop­erly.

It is also prob­a­bly even more im­por­tant for co­hab­it­ing part­ners to write wills.

With­out a will, a sur­viv­ing co­hab­it­ing part­ner is left in a very vul­ner­a­ble po­si­tion, es­pe­cially in terms of money and prop­erty.

It can also be use­ful to con­sider the po­si­tion of any chil­dren. If par­ents are not mar­ried, a male part­ner is not pre­sumed to be the le­gal fa­ther of a child.

Since De­cem­ber 1, 2003, an un­mar­ried fa­ther can ac­quire parental re­spon­si­bil­ity by jointly reg­is­ter­ing or re-reg­is­ter­ing the child’s birth with the mother. A parental re­spon­si­bil­ity agree­ment signed by both part­ners can also give un­mar­ried fa­thers who do not have parental re­spon­si­bil­ity the same le­gal sta­tus as a mar­ried fa­ther. These agree­ments must be filed at the county court. It is also, per­haps, use­ful to ap­point a guardian to act on your death.

Debts gen­er­ally re­main the re­spon­si­bil­ity of the in­di­vid­ual co­hab­it­ing part­ner, other than coun­cil tax or any debt where the other part­ner may have acted as a guar­an­tor. It is pos­si­ble that a util­ity com­pany (e.g. gas or elec­tric­ity) might try to en­force shared debts un­der what is known as the ‘ben­e­fi­cial user’ prin­ci­ple.

Both a co­hab­it­ing or mar­ried part­ner (or civil part­ner) can ap­ply to the court for a non­mo­lesta­tion or­der to pro­tect them­selves from do­mes­tic abuse. If a vic­tim of do­mes­tic abuse needs to ex­clude a part­ner from the home they can ap­ply for an oc­cu­pa­tion or­der to give them a right to stay in the home or sus­pend the right of her or his part­ner to be in the home.

If a co­hab­it­ing re­la­tion­ship comes to an end be­cause of sep­a­ra­tion, this can be done in­for­mally with­out the in­ter­ven­tion of a court, but there can be prob­lems for a part­ner who is not a named ten­ant or owner of the home. The courts have few pow­ers to make or­ders con­cern­ing the money or prop­erty of the cou­ple un­less the cou­ple has made an en­force­able agree­ment.

Co­hab­it­ing part­ners do not have a duty to sup­port each other fi­nan­cially, al­though both bi­o­log­i­cal (or adop­tive) par­ents have a duty to sup­port a child.

Co­hab­it­ing part­ners will be treated as a cou­ple for the pur­poses of claim­ing means tested ben­e­fits.

Co­hab­it­ing part­ners are not au­to­mat­i­cally en­ti­tled to give con­sent for med­i­cal treat­ment, this will in­stead by the next of kin. A hos­pi­tal will usu­ally ac­cept the per­son named as a next of kin if the other part­ner was able to make it clear them­selves who this should be.

The law around co­hab­i­ta­tion is com­plex and this ad­vice is not com­pre­hen­sive. You should in­stead check our in­for­ma­tion on the in­ter­net for your­self.


The law is not as straight­for­ward for cou­ples who sep­a­rate with­out be­ing mar­ried, so it is best to know where you stand in the event of a break-up

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