Cohabiting couples, who live together but are not married or in a civil partnership, are the fastest growing family type in Scotland. Many of these couples, including celebrities, will be unaware of their legal rights in the event that the relationship breaks down. Some may think that because they are not in a formal relationship there can be no financial claim against them upon separation. On the other hand, their partner may believe that they have the same rights as a married person or civil partner. Both are mistaken.
Before the Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006, couples living together had few legal rights in the event of separation or death of one of the partners. The Act, however, created a new legal framework for couples cohabiting providing greater protections for them without going so far as those offered to married couples or those in a civil partnership.
There is no qualifying period attached to the relationship but in deciding if the Act applies the court will consider the length of a relationship, its nature, and the financial arrangements between the partners.
In general terms, the Act provides that when couples separate then there is the right for a financial claim against the other for a capital sum. For a claim to succeed it needs to be shown that one partner has suffered an “economic disadvantage” while the other partner has gained an advantage. Moreover, if there are children under the age of 16 and one partner is left to take care of the children then there is scope for an additional claim for a sum to compensate for this economic disparity. The disadvantaged partner has one year from the date of separation to make a claim for a lump sum.
Celebrities are likely to have considerable assets. There may be a property or properties that are solely or jointly owned. In practice, quantifying a claim can be difficult as well as assessing the probability of success with the court having wide discretion as to the size of any award.
Cohabiting couples can enter a cohabitation agreement in order to avoid the legal uncertainty that may follow a relationship breakdown and the publicity of a court action.
The 2006 Act makes it possible to make a financial claim in the case of a partner’s death in the case of intestacy (i.e. where one partner dies without a Will). The claim needs to be made within six months. To protect your partner it is important to write a Will outlining who you wish to inherit your estate or they could find their claim in competition with other interested parties.
If you are a celebrity currently cohabiting, or considering doing so, Miller Samuel Hill Brown, Solicitors can advise you on the law relating to cohabitation and the benefits of a cohabitation agreement. For further information in relation to cohabitation issues please contact a member of our Private Client Department- based in Glasgow City Centre our lawyers also help clients in Glasgow’s West End, South Side, Paisley and across Renfrewshire, Lanarkshire and Central Scotland. Please call us on 0141 221 1919 of fill in our online contact form.