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Ending co-habitation

It is a common misunderstanding that the same rules apply to a man and a woman or gay partners in unwed co-habitation (common law marriage) as to married or registered partnership couples. The fact is, however, that the rules of dividing property and liabilities/debt into equal halves upon separation, do not apply to co-habiting partners, and they are not legally entitled to inheritance upon the death of the other. They do not enjoy the right of beneficial enjoyment of the joint estate (defer the estate settlement) after the death of a co-habiting partner. There is no specific act on co-habitation, but various stipulations can be found in legislation. According to tax law, for example, co-habiting partners can make a written request for joint taxation to the tax authorities, if the have a child together, share legal residence, the woman is pregnant by the man, or if they have been cohabiting for an uninterrupted period of at least one year. If the same circumstances apply, co-habiting partners enjoy the same right to social security as couples do according to the social security Act.

The matrimonial and separate property system does not apply to co-habitation. In court cases regarding disputes on the division of property/assets between former co-habiting couples, the right of one partner to ownership of up to a half of the others’ property (an apartment for example) has been recognized. However, this only applies to property acquired during the co-habitation period. Each partner has to show proof of his contribution to the household/estate. The length of the co-habitation period is also important and even the number of children they have together.

If the partners cannot reach a settlement on the division on property upon ending co-habitation, either one or both of them may request that the settlement of assets and debts takes place by an official settlement procedure. The co-habitation must however have lasted for at least two years, or the partners had a child together or the woman being pregnant by the man.

There is no legal obligation to present a written agreement on the settlement of assets, as upon filing for divorce. Also, there’s no need to end co-habitation before a district Commissioner (sýslumaður) if the partners do not have children under 18 together. If they have minors they must reach an agreement on custody and support payments. If an agreement cannot be reached the dispute can be put before the municipal court.

Note: All of the above information may concern some of the most important rights in a person’s life. We therefore encourage people to seek professional advice concerning these issues. And again, never sign your name to anything unless you are 100% sure that you know what you are signing and what effect it will have on your rights.