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Many couples choose cohabitation instead of marriage, but are not aware of the contrast between how the law treats cohabitees and married couples.  Therefore, it is a good idea to take independent legal advice before or during your cohabitation, so you are aware of your rights and responsibilities in your particular circumstances.


The number of couples choosing to live together and raise a family without formalising their relationship by getting married or entering in to a civil partnership continues to increase.  Yet many are not aware that common law marriage is a complete myth and does not exist in English law.  The claims that a cohabitee may have against their former partner on separation are limited because matrimonial law does not apply.  It is for this reason that cohabiting couples need to give serious thought to how their finances are to be arranged during their relationship and in the event that their relationship does not endure.

For those who are cohabiting, or contemplating cohabiting, it is important that you are fully aware of your rights, so you can take steps to protect your assets and safeguard your future, and this is even more crucial if you have children.  Entering in to a cohabitation agreement provides the opportunity to regulate your rights and set out the main financial arrangements that govern your relationship, so that costly litigation can be avoided should a dispute arise. 

If your relationship does come to an end and a dispute arises, it is important that legal advice is obtained at the earliest opportunity as this is a complex area of law.

Whether you are considering entering in to a cohabitation agreement or have separated and a dispute has arisen with your former partner, our specialist family lawyers are experts in this complex area of law and provide comprehensive advice on all aspects of cohabitation.

If you have any questions about cohabitation agreements or disputes, or require further advice, please get in touch with one of our specialist family lawyers.

Some frequently asked questions about cohabitation

Do cohabiting couples have the same rights as married couples?
Generally, cohabiting couples have fewer rights than married couples as matrimonial law does not apply. Many couples believe that living together for a certain period of time creates a common law marriage, but the concept of common law marriage is a complete myth as it does not exist in English law. Any claims that a cohabitee may have on separation are limited to other areas of law, the main one being property law.
What is a cohabitation agreement and why do I need one?
A cohabitation agreement is a contractual agreement between you and your partner that sets out how you intend to arrange your finances while you live together and what should happen in the event that your relationship breaks down. It can protect your assets and financial position should the relationship breakdown or if one of you were to die.
How much does it cost to get a cohabitation agreement?
The cost of getting a cohabitation agreement drawn up depends upon the complexity of the financial arrangements and the amount of time spent negotiating and agreeing the terms of the agreement. However, investing time and money in getting a fair agreement drawn up can avoid costly litigation should a dispute arise on separation.
What rights do I have should my partner die?
Unlike married couples, cohabiting couples will have no automatic right to each other’s assets on death. This is why it is vital that cohabiting couples make Wills. For further information about making a Will, please see our ‘making a Will’ section.

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Our Cohabitation team

Laura Carr

Laura Carr
Office: Basildon

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