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Cohabitation Glossary

ADR (Alternative Dispute Resolution)
A mediation procedure that has, since 1999, been encouraged by the courts to avoid cases taking up the courts' time when they could be settled. An unreasonable refusal to mediate may result in the winning party to an action being unable to recover their costs. See also Mediation.
A written statement of facts made on oath and signed in the presence of an authorised person (e.g. solicitor). Used as evidence.
The deliberate use of unlawful force on somebody, ranging from just touching them to the use of physical violence. But such force may be lawful as, for instance, where it's authorised by agreement (medical treatment or sport) or in self defence.
Beneficial interest
You may have a beneficial interest in a property that is owned by your partner if you have made either direct financial contributions to the property or, in specific and limited circumstances, indirect contributions (e.g. payments towards household expenditure). In England & Wales, if you believe that you have an interest in a property that isn't properly reflected in the legal ownership, you can apply to the court for a ‘declaration’, which is a form of court order, as to the size of your beneficial interest in a property. 
Beneficial joint tenants
People who own property jointly in equal shares. If one dies, their share passes to the others by survivorship. In other words, no matter what their Will might say, the deceased's share will go to the surviving tenant(s). To avoid that result, the joint tenancy can be severed; see Severance of a Joint Tenancy.
Beneficial tenants in common
Persons who own property jointly but not necessarily in equal shares. If one dies, their share passes to their heirs.
Civil partnership
A same-sex or opposite-sex relationship registered under the Civil Partnership Act 2004, placing same-sex couples on a similar footing before the law as those who are married in that they have similar rights to married couples, both during their relationship and on death or separation.
Under family law, the definition is ‘two persons who, although not married to each other, are living together as husband and wife or (if of the same sex) in an equivalent relationship’.
Cohabitation agreement
An agreement drawn up by unmarried couples dealing with the financial structure of their relationship and recording the financial obligations they wish to have towards each other in order to avoid dispute. Issues include: (1) who will pay the bills; (2) how home repairs and improvements will be funded; (3) how the joint accounts and credit cards will be operated; (4) what will happen to the property and assets after death; (5) who is responsible for any school fees; and (6) how your possessions will be divided. For a solicitor-approved cohabitation agreement, get our cohabitation agreement download.
Common law marriage
A dated legal term relating to those who live together which gives unmarried couples a false sense of security. ‘Common law marriage’ isn't protected in law and there are no such people as ‘common law wives’ and ‘common law husbands’. Despite the fact that it's frequently referred to in the press, it plays no part in the law of England & Wales. Until 2006 in Scotland, there was a form of common law marriage called ‘marriage by cohabitation with habit and repute’. The theory behind this law was that if a man and woman cohabited as husband and wife in Scotland for sufficient time and were generally held and reputed to be husband and wife and were free to marry each other, they would be presumed to have consented to marry each other and if this presumption was not overturned, they would be considered to be legally married. This form of common law marriage has now been abolished.
Contact order
‘Contact’ is the legal term now used instead of the old ‘access order’. It's used to refer to the time when the parent who doesn't have the day-to-day care of the children can see them. It's usual for parents to agree on the arrangements for contact between them but if they cannot, a court may make an order for contact. Contact can include overnight (also known as ‘staying’) contact or even supervised contact where it's appropriate that the child should not be left alone with a particular parent. In England & Wales, certain third parties (e.g. grandparents and step-parents) can also apply for contact with a child, although, in the first instance, they have to ask permission for ‘leave’ of the court to bring their application. Such permission is usually granted. In Scotland, third parties don’t need the permission or ‘leave’ of the court.
The process of dissolving a civil partnership. Cannot be started until at least one year has passed since the registration took place. (Note: this one-year period doesn't apply in Scotland.)
a. The value remaining after all prior claims on an asset have been met. Hence the value of a house less the amount currently outstanding on the mortgage (known as the 'equity of redemption'). Or the value of the shareholders' interest in a company.

b. The system of law developed from the 16th century in the Court of Chancery alongside the Common law. The two systems were merged long ago but some aspects survive, notably the distinction between the legal estate (common law ownership) and equitable estate (beneficial ownership) in property. Although the equitable owner is entitled to all the benefits derived from the ownership, it is generally the legal owner who has to execute any documents and be named as a party in court actions.
Exclusion order
See Occupation order.
A person with legal control of, and responsibility for, a child.
A court order in Scotland preventing a partner or former partner being violent or abusive, such as threatening behaviour or assault. An interdict can also ban a partner/ex-partner from coming near your home, work or your child’s school or from phoning you.
Joint tenancy
See Beneficial Joint Tenants.
Living together agreement
An agreement drawn up by unmarried couples recording any moral or lifestyle issues that are non-legal, so that each party is clear as to what is expected of them from the outset and to avoid later potential disputes. Matters dealt with in a living together agreement can include, for example: (1) who is responsible for cooking and cleaning; (2) how will the children be brought up; (3) what religious upbringing or type of schooling the children will have; (4) who will the couple turn to in the event of relationship difficulties (e.g. to Relate, the relationship counselling service, or to a faith).
The use of a mediator to help reach a settlement in a dispute. Mediation differs from arbitration in that a mediator will not come down on one side or the other and make an award. The aim of mediation is to persuade the parties to reach agreement and not to impose a ruling that has to be obeyed. Some County Courts operate mediation schemes, which can be very effective and may avoid the expense of solicitors. See also ADR.
Non-molestation order
In England & Wales, a court order preventing someone from being violent or abusive to their partner (or ex-partner) or from harassing them. The definition of molestation is wide and it includes such actions as following somebody, telephoning them repeatedly and sending notes through their door, etc. Both opposite-sex and same-sex couples are entitled to obtain non-molestation orders.
Occupation order
A court order excluding a person from the family home. Occupations orders are usually only granted by the court where there is evidence of violence or psychological harm, either to the parties or to their children if they remain living under the same roof. Occupation orders are usually granted for short periods only (often between three and six months), although they can be extended by the court. Known as an 'exclusion order' in Scotland.
Order for occupancy rights
In Scotland, a court order stopping your partner from selling the property (if they own the property and you don't). This can be used in only very limited circumstances and can only be granted for an initial period of up to six months. It can only be extended for a further six months, so the maximum period you could obtain an order for occupancy rights would be for one year.
Order for sale
In England & Wales, a court order obtained by an unmarried couple who is splitting up which arranges for the property in which the partners have an interest to be sold, or to prevent one partner from forcing a sale. A court can also order that either of the parties can be prevented from occupying the property and it can even order that the person who has remained in the property pays compensation (sometimes called ‘occupational rent’) to the party who is excluded from it.
Parental responsibilities and parental rights agreement
See Parental responsibility agreement.
Parental responsibility
Family law describes parental responsibility as giving parents all the ‘rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent has in relation to a child and his property’. The practical effect of parental responsibility is that where two parents have parental responsibility, one parent cannot make decisions about the child without the other parent’s agreeing the matter with them. The types of issue that are covered by parental responsibility are major (as opposed to day-to-day) issues regarding a child, such as their education, religious instruction and medical care.
Parental responsibility agreement
A legal document signed by both parents of a child when they are unmarried to give parental responsibility to the father for a child born before 1 December 2003. Only the natural parents can sign a parental responsibility agreement. Known as a 'parental responsibilities and parental rights agreement' in Scotland.
Parental responsibility order
A court order to give a father parental responsibility. If you are in agreement that both of you should hold parental responsibility, the best and simplest way of dealing with this is to sign a parental responsibility agreement. 
Personal property
All property other than real property. Personal property, or personalty, is contrasted with interests in land, or realty, for historical reasons but there are still important differences, for example in the way they can be transferred.
Prenuptial agreement or 'prenup'
A prenuptial agreement (or premarital agreement), commonly abbreviated to 'prenup', is a legal contract entered into prior to marriage or a civil partnership stating the legal claims each party has on each other's estate should the couple subsequently divorce.
Prohibited steps order
A prohibited steps order can be applied for if it's necessary to obtain an order to prevent something happening in relation to the child (e.g. to prevent them from having contact with an undesirable person or to stop a parent from taking them to a particular place or sending them to a particular school).
Registered minute of agreement
See Trust deed
Residence order
‘Residence order’ is the name now used which has replaced the old ‘custody order’ and is the type of order that a court will make when it's necessary for the court to decide where a child should live. A residence order can be made in favour of one parent or in favour of both parents (then known as a ‘joint residence order’). Joint residence orders used to be relatively rare because the courts considered that a child would benefit from having one main base, but their popularity is on the increase. If a residence order is made in your favour, you automatically gain parental responsibility.
Restraining order
A court order preventing someone from doing something (usually assault).
Specific issue order
A court will make a specific issue order for any other issue relating to a child that isn't covered by residence, contact or prohibited steps orders. Specific issue orders are usually orders made by a court when it's asked to make a decision about an important aspect of the child’s life (e.g. a particular school a child should attend). One situation in which this kind of order may be needed would be if you wish to take your child to live in another country.
Survivorship destination
In Scotland, this is a way of holding property so that, when one of the joint owners dies, their share passes automatically to the others. See Beneficial Joint Tenants.
Tenancy in common
The joint beneficial ownership of property in specified (not necessarily equal) shares. If one tenant in common dies, their share passes according to the wishes of the deceased’s Will or the law of intestacy, as appropriate. Their share will not automatically go to their life partner. Although called a tenancy, this has nothing to do with leases.
Trust deed
In England and Wales, an agreement drawn up by unmarried couples dealing with the ownership of the property. The usual issues dealt with in a trust deed are: 

1. The exact percentage of each partner's beneficial interest in the property (i.e. what their shares in the property are to be in the event of death or separation). 

2. Whether one partner can buy out the other if the relationship breaks down. 

3. How the value of the property is to be calculated if one partner buys out the other. 

4. The circumstances in which the property should be sold. 

5. What will happen to the property if one partner dies. 

6. Who is to pay the outgoings relating to the property (e.g. buildings insurance and repairs). 

7. Any agreement on the method by which improvements, repairs, etc., will be carried out. 

8. What happens if one party fails to pay any of the items referred to in the trust deed (i.e. whether there will be a recalculation of each party's respective beneficial interests in the property).  

Known as a 'registered minute of agreement' in Scotland.


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