Living together (cohabiting in the UK) and coronavirus: Make your choice and stick to it

“Make your choice and keep it,” was Matt Hancock, UK’s health secretary. He gave this advice to couples at a Downing Street Press Conference on Tuesday 24, March. It was for those who are not yet living together but don’t want to spend the next three weeks apart.

Jenny Harries, the UK’s deputy chief physician officer, explained that, except in exceptional circumstances, social distancing guidelines are clear. People should not move between homes. If you wish to see your partner in the next three weeks, you must be living in the same house. She advised that you test the strength of your relationship and decide if you want to move in with them or not.

This is a significant decision for people in relationships, particularly for those who would otherwise live alone.

There are many misconceptions and misunderstandings about the legal implications of living together. If you’re one of those who decided to live together immediately rather than endure weeks of forced separation, here are some key points:

  • Living together does NOT give rise to legal rights or remedies. You shouldn’t be concerned that you may become ‘common-law spouses’ by moving in. This could trigger financial obligations and rights between you. This mythical notion is not real.
  • It is important to not make promises you don’t intend to keep. A common intention to share ownership can have serious legal consequences, especially if one person relies on the promise to give up their property or make an economic sacrifice based on the belief that you have agreed.
  • It is important to discuss with your spouse how you will handle household expenses, regardless of whether your home is rented or owned. This could include if the non-owner contributes to the mortgage or renovations. This could have serious legal implications. To avoid any confusion about the nature or consequences of financial contributions by the non-owning spouse, be clear about your intentions.

If everything goes well and the arrangement is made permanent, it’s a good idea to learn more about its wider implications. This is especially true if you have children. It is worth considering whether you will need to nominate for life insurance and pensions. Also, what should happen to any tenancy agreements? And, if you are going to die, a Will.

It is sensible to create a cohabitation agreement or “living together” agreement. This will outline the intentions of both partners regarding property, finances, and how they would support their children in the event of separation.

Coronavirus – Parenting through a Pandemic

Separating parents should always try to see the situation from their children’s point of view and try to give certainty and consistency in making arrangements for where they live and how they spend their time. This will help them to know what to expect. It is difficult to remain calm and consistent during a pandemic. With guidance shifting, increasing infection rates, and growing concern, it becomes more difficult to be calm and consistent. Of course, parents will have differing opinions about what is safe and allowed.

This uncertainty was brought out by Boris Johnson’s Friday Downing Street press conference, where he suggested (with a caveat that the Guidance be checked) that a child who lives in a middle-tier house may not be allowed to spend time with a parent living in a higher-tier location. While the Guidance clearly states that children can travel between tiers to make contact arrangements, there is an exemption from the rules that govern different households. A spokesperson for the government stated that individuals are permitted to create childcare and individual support groups across tiers so that a Tier 2 parent could travel to care for a Tier 3 child. While spending time with each parent may not be considered ‘childcare’ as this typically refers to someone else looking after the children, it seems that this applies to separated family law lawyers surrey.

The new rules for childcare arrangements

New rules on gatherings and household mixing allow for exemptions for childcare arrangements. These arrangements can be formal (nannies or childminders), or informal (friends and relatives). There are exceptions to the legal gathering limit for supervised activities for children, including wraparound care and youth groups and activities.

This is known as a “childcare bubble” if there is informal childcare. Rules state that informal childcare can be provided to children aged 13 and under by different households.

This will be a great relief for all parents who depend on childcare arrangements to provide support and enable them to work and care for their children.

Communication is a way to communicate in the absence of confusion

Communicating is the key to solving problems related to children. It is difficult to communicate with your ex-partner your concerns and listen to them. There can be anxiety and uncertainty about how to interpret guidance and stay safe. It can be very helpful to get advice on the best way to solve this problem. You must always consider the best interests and needs of your children when discussing these issues.