Cohabitation cases and the impact of coronavirus

Self-isolation is something that most of us will be struggling with, even if you are lucky enough to be living in a close, loving family unit. For some the reality may be that an already fragile relationship is being pushed to breaking point by the stress of the current and unusual circumstances in which we find ourselves. For unmarried couples who live together and then separate, the situation can be especially confusing- and there are more issues you need to be thinking about in these COVID-19 days…

The most commonly held misconceptions in relation to the rights of cohabiting couples in Scotland are that either cohabitants have no rights at all, or that their rights are akin to those of married couples- the so-called, ‘common-law marriage’. The truth is actually more nuanced, and lies somewhere in the middle.

Scotland has recognised the rights of cohabitants to make a financial claim against their ex-partner in certain limited circumstances for over a decade now- where the couple splits up. There is separate provision for cases where the relationship comes to an end because one of the cohabitants dies, as long as the deceased partner doesn’t leave a will.

In cases where the couple have split up, the law allows a court to award a capital sum payment in the event of a successful claim being made. Any such claim would have to be made within one year of separating.

The courts in Scotland are currently operating on a restricted basis, dealing with only the most urgent business. Likewise, property transactions have ground to a halt. Despite this, the one-year time limit to make a financial claim on separation still stands. Although a year may seem like enough time to be able to take advice and resolve matters, it may well take longer than you think. There is also always the possibility of a dispute surrounding your date of separation, which may well be less clear cut, if you are having to remain in the same property to self-isolate. If your cohabiting relationship has ended and you think that you may have a financial claim or you have property which needs to be divided, it is important to seek advice as soon as possible.