Cohabitation Agreements

What are common law partner rights when separating in the UK? Do common law partners even exist? What does this mean for you?

Blanchards Law is a niche family law practice with divorce solicitors, mediators and collaborative lawyers.

Punam Denley talks about Cohabitation and the Law

Can we help you? Please call us on 0333 344 6302 or contact us through our enquiry form. All initial enquiries are free and without obligation.

What are Cohabitation rights?

Unmarried couples do not have the same legal protection as married couples; and they also have less responsibility to each other in the event of a breakup. The terms common-law wife or husband are frequently used to describe a couple who live together, but these relationships do not have legal recognition and the laws protecting cohabiting couples are nowhere near as comprehensive as matrimonial laws.

A cohabitation agreement offers some protection. It sets out how you will support your children beyond legal duties to provide care and support, as well as defines how you will split any bank accounts, pension schemes, debts and joint purchases like vehicles.

You can also use a cohabitation agreement to outline who owns which assets while you live together and explain your joint finances, such as how much you both pay towards the mortgage, rent or bills.

Normally the most significant asset is the house that you live in. The starting point is always to consider whose names are on the deeds to the property.

If the home is owned in your former partner’s sole name, there may be steps which we can do on your behalf to register a potential interest for you at the Land Registry and protect any rights you may have. If you are just starting out and are buying a home together for the first time, then you should take some advice now about how the property should be owned, as this may help prevent arguments later.

We can draw up a cohabitation agreement for you, which can help to clarify who will (or won’t) have an interest in the equity in the home and the share amounts.

What is cohabitation?

Cohabitation is when a couple lives together before marriage (or civil partnership).

Moving in with a partner can be one of the most exciting times in your life. There is often so much to look forward to that it is easy to put aside any doubts about the times ahead.

If you are living with your partner and you are not married or in a civil partnership, you are a cohabiting couple.

Clients often ask us about common law partner rights when separating in the UK. The only way to get the legal rights of a married couple is to get married. This remains the case even if you live together a long time, have kids or buy a house together. Cohabitation rights do not really exist.

Legally, cohabiting couples have no financial responsibility to one another if they separate. If your relationship ends you have no legal responsibility to provide your former partner with financial support.

If you and a partner are thinking about living together – what is legally termed ‘cohabitation’ – it is crucial that you obtain preventative legal advice at the outset. The law does not provide the same protections or legal remedies for cohabiting couples as it does married couples.

Unlike married couples, simply living with your partner does not give one an interest in the other’s property. Common law marriage does not exist and cohabitation rights do not really exist.

However, you may still have entitlements based on your contributions or on written or oral agreements between you both. In the event of a dispute, the court will have to determine whether you should continue to occupy the property and what, if any, interest you have in it.

Cohabitation agreements for unmarried couples living together

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document designed to protect the legal rights of unmarried couples. It makes things straightforward if you ever separate, laying down what rights and obligations you each have within the relationship. It can be entered into before you move in together or after living together for many years.

Blanchards Law can create a cohabitation agreement for you that clearly sets out what would happen if you ever separated. It gives you legal protection and helps make sure there are no misunderstandings.

You should think carefully before signing any agreement, seeking independent legal advice to ensure it is drafted and executed correctly.

What can be included in a Cohabitation Agreement

  • Personal possessions
  • Payment of bills
  • Debt responsibility
  • Joint bank account use
  • Finances
  • Property
  • Shared assets
  • Child maintenance

If you are considering living with a partner, even if you have been together for many years, we can provide you with the legal advice and support you require to secure your relationship and protect your interests.

Can we help you? Please call us on 0333 344 6302 or contact us through our enquiry form. All initial enquiries are free and without obligation.

"*" indicates required fields


Stories & case studies to help you

Please read our blogs on our cohabitation work and practice. Like you, many client have come to us because the blogs are informative and designed to help you understand what you can do to resolve your situation.

Contact us on 0333 344 6302 for a no-obligation call