Divorce & Family Law Specialists
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Family Legal Advice


John Kilcoyne & Company provide dedicated client care and clear and pragmatic advice.

Many couples live together as cohabitees without formalising their relationship by getting married or entering into a civil partnership. A cohabitant is defined as a man and a woman who are (or were) living together as if they were man and wife or two persons of the same sex who are (or were) living together as if they were civil partners.

Before 1 May 2006, bar some very exceptional circumstances, one cohabitee had no right to make a claim against their partner either on separation or death. Since the introduction of the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, where a couple have lived together as if they were husband and wife, for any length of time, there is the opportunity to make a claim against their partner on separation or death.

Rights upon Separation
Cohabitants now have the right to apply to the court for financial provision on the breakdown of the cohabitation. To succeed in such a claim one party has to be able to demonstrate to the court:
  1. he/she has suffered economic disadvantage in the interests of their former partner or of any child of the relationship (including a child accepted as a child of the family); and/or
  2. the former partner has gained an economic advantage as a result of any contributions made by the other partner (contributions can be financial or non-financial, such as bringing up the parties child).
In certain circumstances, a court can make an order for the payment of a capital sum, or for a cohabitant to pay money in respect of any economic burden of caring for a child of the relationship. However, it is important to note that unmarried couples have no legal obligation to pay maintenance to each other if they separate. There is no provision for the making of a transfer of property order, so you could not ask the Court to have the house transferred to you.

This is a complex area of law and any claim has to be initiated within twelve months of the separation.

Rights upon Death
Cohabitants are entitled to make a claim against the estate of their partner, if their partner died without having a Will. If appropriate, an award can comprise payment of a sum of money, or transfer of property. A cohabitant can not claim more than they would have been entitled to if they had been married.
This too is a complex area of law and any claim must be initiated within six months of death. As with claims on separation, it is imperative that legal advice is taken as quickly as possible as the courts have no power or discretion to accept a late claim.

Cohabitation Agreements
If you are already cohabiting or about to cohabit or buy a home with someone, you may wish to consider the possibility of a cohabitation agreement. It may seem unthinkable that things could go wrong, however, a cohabitation agreement can protect against problems that might arise further down the line.

A cohabitation agreement allows you to regulate your own affairs and state what you wish to happen should you ever separate.

We also offer a fixed fee preliminary advice package to give you a clear understanding of your options, the remedies available to you and the likely costs for the next steps.
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