The tragic loss of life, challenges and restrictions resulting from the global pandemic have undoubtedly proved a turbulent and testing time for everyone.
This includes the thousands of couples who moved in together during lockdown for practical and financial reasons - and to reduce the risk of passing on the virus.
The emotional rollercoaster sparked by the pandemic has taken its toll on even the most robust relationships - not to mention its devastating economical impact.
Spring is symbolically a time of renewal and, as we readjust to our former lives and freedoms, we recommend couples who are continuing to live together to protect themselves should they break up.
Cohabiting couples are the fast growing family type in Britain - but, unlike married couples, they do not have any legal protection or rights if their relationship goes sour.
There are no automatic rights which protect financial issues which span savings, income, pensions and business interests and property. In 2020 the Mortgage Advice Bureau saw a 60% year-on-year rise in applications from cohabiting couples, indicating the lockdown had accelerated the moving in process for many.
We urge unmarried partners to consider a cohabitation or 'living together' agreement which sets out what they want to happen - both while they live together and if their relationship ends.
The agreement clarifies who owns what and in what proportion. It also includes how property will be divided and what will happen with personal belongings, savings, debts, pensions and other assets.
It may also include how children will be supported and can also address pet 'custody' issues.
The agreement can be drafted before or during a couple's time together. It can likewise be altered as long as both parties agree that the original agreement should be changed, and how.
Agreeing the 'what if' scenarios should one partner leave, win the lottery or die, this safeguard can potentially save emotional and financial trauma at a later stage.
The arrangement, which is enforceable, can be set up through virtual 'round-table' meetings within the collaborative process and can avoid the likelihood of cohabitees, particularly those with children, being left destitute.
It is important that each party seeks independent legal advice and discloses all financial information in the lead up to signing the agreement, which should be reviewed regularly.
Our niche family law firm has extensive experience in drafting living together agreements and, sadly, in dealing with disputes arising from separations where there has been no such agreement.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.