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Cohabitation matters

Common-law man and wife is a complete myth.  If you are unmarried and live together you do not have the legal rights of a married couple. 

As a result, following the breakdown of a relationship or the death of one party there are very different legal implications, sometimes creating a financial disaster for a dependent cohabitee. 

Capital assets such as the family home are not divided as they might be in divorce and should a property dispute occur, trust and land law is applied instead. 

There is no automatic entitlement to make financial, capital, spousal maintenance or pension claims. There are laws concerning the children of cohabiting couples as there is no distinction between married and unmarried parents when deciding such issues as who the child (or children) will live with and how often they will see the other parent.

Read our guide to cohabitation PDF

For confidential advice on cohabitation issues please contact our Client Care Team below. 

How to protect yourself

Declaration of trust 

This is a document that confirms the proportions in which two or more individuals own a property, for example, the amount of equity for each party or how it will be spilt should the relationship breakdown. 

Cohabitation agreement

Draw together an agreement that details, amongst others, how property, capital and assets are owned and should be divided; arrangements for children; finances (mortgage and bank accounts) and next of kin.  In order to ensure that the agreement is correctly drafted and given full legal effect, you should consult a solicitor.

Make a will 

It is also important to make a valid will. If you were to die without leaving a will, under the rules of intestacy, unmarried cohabitees do not inherit. Our in-house Wills team can help. 

Relationship already broken down

Please do seek legal advice as soon as possible to ensure you have an understanding of the situation. 

Try and resolve matters by agreement without going to court. If this is not possible, there are a couple of options: 

Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (ToLATA)

You can make a claim to ask the court to decide what share of the property each party owns and decide whether it should be sold to release one party’s share. This is a civil claim and has cost implications. 

Schedule 1 Applications 

You can make a claim for financial provision for the children from the other parent. This can be maintenance or a lump-sum but will be dependent on your family circumstances.  

Get in touch

Our expert team of divorce and family lawyers will guide you through your relationship break-up.

We frequently work with unmarried couples who have separated and will advise you on the most effective and efficient process for you, taking your circumstances into account.

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