News and Insights
10 August 2023
Barbie and Ken are one of the most iconic couples in pop culture history. They have been living together in Barbie’s Dreamhouse for years. Sharing their glamorous lifestyle and assets, but what would happen if they decided to break up? Would they have any legal protection or rights over each other’s property, savings, or income?
Under Jersey law, unmarried couples have very few legal rights if they separate. It is therefore very important that unmarried couples who cohabit seek legal advice and consider a cohabitation agreement. This is even more important if one of them has assets in their sole name, such as a house.
Why a Cohabitation Agreement?
Cohabitation agreements can be useful for couples like Barbie and Ken who want to live as a couple and share their lives but wish to protect their individual assets. A cohabitation agreement is a contract which is legally binding under contract law rather than family law. A cohabitation agreement will have a similar status to a pre-nuptial agreement (a contract entered into by parties before marriage) and a separation agreement (a contract entered into by a married couple when they separate).
The benefit of a cohabitation agreement is that it covers all aspects of an unmarried couple’s shared family life including children, insurance, pensions, property, other assets, how outgoings are met and who is liable for what.
Barbie’s Dreamhouse or Ken’s MoJo DoJo Casa House?
In Barbie and Ken’s case, Barbie is by far the wealthier of the pair. She owns the Dreamhouse and the pink Corvette car, in addition to other valuable assets. She also has a successful career, earning a substantial income from her various roles as a fashion model, astronaut, doctor, lawyer, and more (can you believe it?!). In contrast, Ken (Barbie’s sidekick) is not financially stable, and has very few assets and a low income. Barbie is Ken’s “sugar mummy”.
If Barbie and Ken’s relationship were to break down, as they are not married, Barbie and Ken would each keep their own assets, and will not have a claim over the other’s assets. As Barbie is far wealthier than Ken, he will be left in a vulnerable position particularly if he has contributed financially during their relationship. For example, he may have helped with the deposit on the Dreamhouse.
In Jersey, due to the strict rules regarding residential status and owning property, often the family home will be owned by the “entitled” party if the other party does not have “entitled” or “licensed” status yet often the mortgage will be held jointly and severally. In Jersey, if you do not have legal title to the property, you have no legal rights to the property and you have very little control. This leaves the “unqualified” party in a tricky situation when it comes to contributing to the property financially.
A cohabitation agreement can deal with interests in the property. It is therefore important for cohabiting unmarried couples to consider entering into a cohabitation agreement to protect their rights and interests in the event of a relationship breakdown. Ken will be able to enforce the cohabitation agreement if he and Barbie were to separate.
How a cohabitation agreement can help
To avoid legal complexities and uncertainties, Barbie and Ken should have considered a cohabitation agreement, outlining the rights and responsibilities of each partner at the start of their cohabitation but it can be entered into at any time during their relationship.
A cohabitation agreement can help
- How the household expenses and debts are shared and paid while living together.
- How moveable assets such as bank accounts, pensions, house contents and pets are dealt with.
- How assets will be divided if the relationship were to end.
- What the arrangements for any children will be in the event of a relationship break down.
A cohabitation agreement can provide clarity and certainty for both partners, as well as some financial security for the future.
Even though Barbie and Ken have been together for 43 years, their cohabitation status could result in potential legal issues if they were to break-up. By entering into a cohabitation agreement, they can protect their individual interests and enjoy their relationship with peace of mind.
If you are interested in entering into a cohabitation agreement, contact Viberts' family team on 01534 632 267 or email email@example.com