What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is formal written agreement that describes what how an unmarried couple will regulate their financial arrangements while living together and what the arrangements would be if they were to separate. The agreement makes sorting such issues out more straightforward at the time of separation. It can cover practical issues such as:

  • Finances and financial support
  • Ownership of the family home
  • Childcare arrangements
  • Changes to your tenancy
  • Division of contents such as furniture.

There is no legal concept of a ‘common law marriage.’  Living together without being married or in a civil partnership does not give you any particular rights around finances, property and children.  A cohabitation can go some way to protecting you.  If you think a cohabitation agreement could be for you, talk to one of our friendly family law solicitors.

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What is TOLATA?

TOLATA is the acronym for the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA), the Act under which the Courts have the power to resolve property and land ownership disputes. If you are living together when you are not married or in a civil partnership, this is the law that will be applied to your claims to the property (or a share of the property) in which you live, for example.  A family law solicitor can help you make a claim or represent you if your partner makes a claim against you. You can settle claims outside of Court.

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What is adoption?

Adoption is the legal process through which parental responsibility for a child is transferred to an adoptive parent. The adoptive parents take on all parental rights and responsibilities for the child, such as where they live, the schools they attend and medical matters. When a child is adopted, the biological parents give up their parental responsibility for the child.

How does the adoption process work?

There are two routes to adopting a child within the UK:

  • Through an adoption agency via your local council
  • Through a voluntary adoption agency.

The first step in the adoption process is to contact the adoption agency and provide them with any information they require. Next, the agency will arrange to meet you to assess your suitability. If you are successful at this stage, and want to move forward, the agency will send you an application form.

Who can adopt a child?

You may be eligible to adopt a child if you:

• Are over the age of 21

• Have lived in the UK, Channel Islands or Isle of Man for at least 12 months

• Meet the local authority’s selection criteria. 

You need to prove that you can meet the needs of the child. There's no universal set of adoption requirements, but there are steps prospective adoptive parents can take to demonstrate your suitability.

What does collaborative divorce mean?

Collaborative means working together but in the context of family law, it means more.  Collaborative law is a particular way of both parties and their solicitors (who must be specially trained in Collaborative law) working together towards a resolution of points of dispute between them.  It is an alternative to going to court, and couples who choose collaborative divorce make a commitment not to go to court.

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How does collaborative divorce work?

Collaborative divorce begins with you, your partner and your respective solicitors signing a 'participation agreement’. A participation agreement is a legally binding document to say that you will all work together and come to a final agreement on your divorce. Your solicitors will work as a team to guide you through discussions (called four-way meetings), giving you advice, making suggestions, testing options and steering you towards an agreement. Other expert advisers might also be able to attend the meeting to give extra assistance.

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What is family law arbitration?

Arbitration is a way of resolving dispute – whether in relation to finances or arrangements for children.  An independent arbitrator (like a judge) is appointed jointly by the parties to adjudicate on the points in dispute.  The arbitrator’s decision/adjudication is called an ‘award’, which will be binding on the parties. 

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How does the family law arbitration process work?

Once parties have agreed to enter into arbitration, the first step will be to agree an arbitrator. An arbitrator is a family lawyer (a specialist family law solicitor or barrister) who is qualified to sit as an arbitrator. The arbitrator will set the steps to be taken and the timetable.  Both parties may have solicitors to advise them during the process and either a solicitor or a barrister to represent them at the arbitration (akin to a court hearing before the arbitrator).

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What is a parenting plan?

A parenting plan is an agreement between seperated or divorced parents about how to raise their children. Both parents need to agree to the plan. A parenting plan can be changed at any time, for example as the children grow up, provided both parents agree. 

(A parenting plan is a voluntary agreement between parents and does not involve a court process).

Parenting Plan template is available from the Children and Family Court Advisory and Support Service (CAFCASS).

Learn more - co-parenting 

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