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Many couples faced a difficult decision when Boris Johnson announced tighter social-distancing measures on Friday 20 March.

 

Do they speed-track their relationship and move in together during this period of UK wide lock-down, or do they continue to live their lives apart and risk their relationship not lasting the distance?

 

Social Distance Dating

 

Under the current guidance people are encouraged to remain in their homes and only leave for essential travel such as work (if they are classed as a key worker) to provide care, exercise or shop for essential items. Travelling to see a partner or spending time at your partner’s house would not be classed as ‘essential’ and would be putting both households at risk of contracting the Covid-19 virus.

 

With pubs, restaurants and places of leisure closed for business, the prospect of a romantic date is over for the foreseeable future. Even a romantic stroll would have to form part of your daily exercise allowance.

 

Many couples who chose to stay living separately have had to settle for ‘virtual’ dates whilst under the social-distancing rules. Speaking to each other over the phone, via video call and social media apps to keep the spark in their relationship without physically spending time together.

 

For some couples this is feasible, and they are content that their relationship can continue during the lockdown. This may particularly work if couples have elderly family members to care for, they are in the high-risk category themselves, they have a long-distance relationship or one or both of them are key workers.

 

Your Place or Mine?

 

With no clear timescale for how long these rules will be in place for the option of staying apart may not be realistic for some couples. Those who have been seriously dating for some time may have decided to take the plunge and move into each other’s homes.

 

Under the rules couples will need to choose one person’s residence to live at and should avoid going back and forth between properties and limit contact they have with other people.

 

Suddenly taking the leap of faith to move in with a partner may mean that some of the serious conversations that you would usually have before moving in together are put on hold or glossed over. But it is important to understand your legal position when living together when you are unmarried.

 

Legal Considerations

 

Being thrown together like this may be an interesting way to test your relationship and find out whether you can realistically live together long-term, particularly if you are also both working from home during the coronavirus pandemic!

 

If your short-term lockdown becomes your long-term living arrangement then there are some legal matters to consider in order to protect yourself, your partner and your family.

 
  • There is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’ and no matter how long you live together with your partner, you are not legally protected. This means that you may have difficulty claiming any interest in a property that you do not own.
  • Be aware that if the relationship was to end then you would have no claim for spousal support, even if you put money into the property or gave up work to care for children.
  • If you are paying towards a mortgage or bills to live in a property with your partner, consider what your legal interest in the property is. Will you be added to the title deeds of the property?

If one of you was to pass away without a will, then the property or assets may not pass on to the other partner as intended.

 

Protecting Yourself Legally

 

Once you have passed through the lockdown together you may want to consider meeting with a Family Lawyer to discuss how best to protect your interests if you plan to continue to co-habit with your partner.

 

Documents to consider would be:

  • Cohabitation Agreement – this would set out what should happen in the event of the relationship breaking down.
  • A Declaration of Trust – if you own a property together this will set out what will happen in the event of splitting up. The declaration of trust can reflect who has put more money into the property if the share isn’t equal.
  • Wills – these important legal documents will ensure that if you are not married, that property or joint assets will pass seamless to the other partner if that is the intention.
 

Next Steps

 

For more information or guidance on your own personal circumstances please get in touch with our Family Law Team on 01256 844888, email enquiries@lambbrooks.com or speak to our online chat assistant via our website.

 

We hope we can help you by providing peace of mind and stringent advice that you can rely on to continue with your relationship living together happily.

 

Other articles you may be interested in reading:

Remaining Positive During the Covid-19 Pandemic

A Quick Guide to Making a Will

5 Things You Need to Know if you are Living Together

 

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice.  The law may have changed since this article was published.   Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.