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The Law Surrounding Cohabitation

As a cohabitating couple deciding to bring your relationship to an end, you may believe that after so many years of living together and having children, you have the same rights as a married couple. Unfortunately, this Is not the case. In fact, the law takes a completely different approach when dealing with the split of an unmarried couple. For those unmarried couples who have accumulated assets, property, and had children together, it can become unclear as to what will happen to these in the event of a relationship breakdown.

What does cohabitate mean in the eyes of the law?

Well, in fact, there is no legal definition of living together. However, this generally refers to a couple who live together but have never been married. Sometimes people refer to this as a common-law partner. Although in the eyes of the law this is not a reality. There is no such thing as a common-law husband or wife. You are either married or you are not married. Which can make a big difference to the legal decisions which follow the breakdown of your relationship.

Financial concerns

Financial decisions, such as the division of property and assets, will be a big concern for cohabitating couples. Unlike married couples, cohabitating couples do not necessarily have any right to the property or assets of their partner. Despite living together, after a break-up you may not be entitled to the property you have been living in or the assets you have shared. As with any family law case, it is important to note that no two cases are the same.


If property is owned solely by one party, you will typically not have any rights to the property if you do not have a share in it. No matter how long you have lived together. There are some ways you may be able to prove you have rights to the property, for example:

If you contributed towards the deposit of the house or made mortgage payments

Or, if you made a major financial commitment towards the house, like paying for an extension.


Assets which are jointly owned should be split between you under any legal agreement that has been made. Anything owned in your partner’s name, solely, will be theirs and not yours. Unless you can prove otherwise.

Arrangements for your children

To make arrangements for your children, a family law solicitor can guide you through the Children Act 1989. This will decide upon financial provision for your children. It is important to remember, the father of the children of your relationship will only have parental responsibility if they are on the birth certificate. The Children Act will only concern the children that are of this relationship and will not consider any children of previous relationships.

A Cohabitation Agreement

For couples choosing to cohabitate and do not wish to marry, you can sign a cohabitation agreement together. This is a legal document which sets out arrangements for any finances, property, assets, and arrangements for your children, if you split up or one partner is to die or become ill.

With advice and guidance from a family law solicitor, you will be guided through the process of making this agreement and ensuing it is legally binding.

For legal and advice and guidance from an experienced family law solicitor regarding your separation, do not hesitate to get in touch with me. Working with clients across the Cheshire area, I have years of experience in dealing with the separation of unmarried and married couples alike.

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