The Cohabitation Conundrum: The legal implications of buying a house before tying the knot. Part 1

Buying a house with your partner is an incredibly exciting time; you’ve found your dream home and you have planned your lives together and the last thing on your mind is what if something goes wrong. However, as you and your partner are not married and do not have a registered civil partnership, it is important to know how you are protected if the worst happens and the relationship comes to an end.

In today’s society we look for things to be as simple as possible (iPhones, automatic cars and contactless payment to name a few benefits) but whilst one part of our lives becomes easier; our relationships have become more complex.

Relationships can no longer simply be put into 2 simple boxes as either married or single, we live in a world where we can benefit from a variety of relationships such as; marriage, registered civil partnerships and importantly for your purposes cohabitation.

Now you might be thinking: “what is cohabitation?” Cohabitation is defined as a couple who live together as if they were husband and wife or civil partners; the wording here is very important. Essentially, the law makes it clear that cohabitants do not have the same rights as married couples or registered civil partners.

In reality, you can be living as if you were husband and wife or civil partners (i.e. the usual disagreements about socks and cleaning) and you may share all the bills however, without a marriage certificate or registered civil partnership you are classed as cohabitees.

Common law husband and wife
You may have heard people referring to couples who live together as common law husband and wife and wonder what this means. Common law husband and wife recognises a couple who live together as being married in the eyes of the law without the need for a marriage certificate.

Unfortunately, this concept does not exist in Scotland and a couple who live together but are not married are cohabitees so while you may feel like you have a common law ball and chain, you are still classed as cohabitees.

Don’t rush to the altar!
Before you rush to the altar to say “I do” the good news is that cohabitation was recognised by the law in the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 which provides some protection for cohabitants if the relationship ends and we will look at this is in detail in Part 2 but if in doubt, always ask for advice.


MMiLegal NewsMary Philip