07 August 2023

There is no legal definition of cohabitation in England and Wales. Many people believe that sharing a home with a partner creates a ‘common law marriage’ and gives the couple all the rights that a married couple have. This is a myth, and it makes no difference how long you have been together or if you have children together.

If you are a couple, whether same-sex or opposite-sex, who are not married or in a civil partnership but in a relationship and living together you have very limited rights around property and finances.

There are legal rights afforded to a married couple in statue but there are no equivalent rights for those that choose not to marry or to enter a civil partnership. Cohabitees have no legal duty to one another whilst living together, following separation or even in death. Cohabiting couples are at greater risk of financial hardship, particularly if they are the more financially vulnerable. Assets such as the family home are not divided as they may be in a divorce, disputes between cohabitees are dealt with under Trust and Land Law. There is no automatic entitlement to finance, capital, maintenance or pensions.

If you are considering moving into together or you have been cohabiting with your partner for many years, it is always worth considering what would happen if your relationship were to breakdown so that each of you are provided for. A cohabitation agreement is a document that can set out your agreed arrangements for finances, property and children while you are living together and if you split up, become ill or die. It will provide both of you with clarity for the duration of a relationship and after.

If you need advice on living together please contact Lesley Powell in the family team on 01935 846089 or