Dealing with a separation is an extremely difficult subject no matter what your personal circumstances or living arrangements are.
There is no legal definition of living together, but it is generally accepted that two people are cohabiting when they choose to live together as a couple without being legally married.
It may feel as though there are a host of resources to explain what married couples do when their relationship comes to an end, but where do you stand if you are cohabiting and decide to separate?
Taking Legal Action When You Separate
If you are cohabiting and your relationship comes to an end, you or your partner do not need to take any legal action or need any court intervention in order to separate.
Certain issues are likely to need addressing, however, such as finances, housing and children.
These subjects can be addressed via two methods: an informal agreement between the two parties or a written separation agreement.
What Is A Separation Agreement?
A separation agreement is a written document produced by two partners who choose to stop living together.
It sets out numerous issues and may include:
- Arrangements for your children – detailing who the children should live and have contact with following a separation. It could outline any maintenance for children born to both partners.
- Details concerning finances – this may include any agreed financial support for your partner (although neither you nor your partner is legally obliged to provide financial support to the other if you’re not married or in a civil partnership). If financial support is agreed, the written agreement would normally state that this would end if a partner started cohabiting with a new partner in the future.
- Agreements relating to property – outlines what happens to owned or rented property in the event of a separation.
- An agreement regarding certain behaviour – examples of this could include agreeing not to annoy or disturb your partner following a separation.
Written separation agreements offer clarity to both parties, as well as a clear outline of what has been agreed when the relationship breaks down. When deciding to draw up a separation agreement, it is strongly advisable to seek advice from a solicitor.
The Power of the Court
Although court intervention is not required for cohabiting couples who separate, the court does have the power to make and implement orders which decide upon the care of any children and determine who will take care of children born of the relationship.
When a relationship comes to an end, both parents have a responsibility to offer financial support to their children regardless of where and with whom those children will live.
The responsibility falls equally to the two parents, even if they are not named on the child’s birth certificate.
Parental responsibility means you share equally the responsibility for your child’s health, education and welfare. Being the father of your child does not necessarily mean you have a say in their future, even if you are providing maintenance to the child. Whether you have a say in the upbringing and welfare of your child ultimately depends on whether you have parental responsibility.
At a distressing time when there is so much to think about and cope with, it is imperative that partners who cohabit consider being as prepared as possible by seeking legal advice to draw up a written separation agreement.
This will not only help map out all eventualities, but makes specific arrangements crystal clear for both parties in the event of a separation.
Knowing your rights and where you stand makes coping with the difficulties of a separation more manageable and arrangements easier to digest.
If you are cohabiting with your partner and have decided to separate, Cordell & Cordell can offer a wealth of useful information and advice to help you through this difficult time in your life.
Contact Cordell & Cordell for more information.