Solicitors for cohabitation legal advice and cohabitation and separation agreements

Many couples are now choosing to live together rather than get married. There are around 4 million couples in England and Wales who have chosen to co-habit. It is important to note that unmarried couples who cohabit and who do not formalise their relationship through either marriage or civil partnership will have significantly fewer rights and less protection in law.

Our family law solicitors can assist you in legal matters arising from cohabitation, including property rights, drafting a cohabitation agreement or if you have been in a long term relationship with children, a separation agreement. Where disputes arise we are experienced in the court process and in resolving the dispute using mediation.


Common law rights of long term couples?

Many cohabiting couples do not realise that under English Law there is no such thing as a “common law” husband or wife – living together for a period of time, even if it is for many years, does not mean co-habitees acquire the same rights and responsibilities as a married couple, nor do they have access to the remedies available to married couples on the breakdown of their relationship.

While this may of course suit many couples, in certain circumstances it can leave partners vulnerable should the relationship break down.

Formalise your relationship with a cohabitation agreement

If you live with or are about to start living with a partner then you may wish to draw up a cohabitation agreement to clarify the ownership of shared property and other assets to ensure that your partner and any children will be provided for, should anything unexpected happen.

A typical cohabitation agreement will deal with issues including :-

  • Who will pay for what? – this could be proportional to income, fixed amounts, or a combination and include rent/mortgage, utilities, groceries, and other regular costs.
  • Joint bank accounts and personal finances – whether to have joint accounts, how individual savings will be managed, and any shared debts.
  • Contributions to property – if co-owning a property, specify ownership percentages and contributions towards mortgages, deposits, renovations, etc.
  • Ownership of jointly acquired assets – clearly define ownership of furniture, vehicles, and other items bought during the relationship.
  • What happens if you split up? decide how jointly owned assets will be divided if the relationship ends and a procedure for resolving any disputes, possibly including mediation.
  • Pets – responsibility for care and ownership of shared pets in case of separation.

Separation agreements : What happens when unmarried couples break up?

With long term relationships, especially where there are children under the age of 18, you should strongly consider trying to agree a legal separation agreement (also known as a Deed of Separation). Whilst this is not legally binding or enforceable in court. However, if the agreement has been made between partners who have both received independent legal advice from experienced family law solicitors and there has been full and frank financial disclosure, then the agreement may guide the courts in any future litigation arising from a dispute.

Next steps

Please contact our Family Law solicitors for help or advice on cohabitation, cohabitation agreements and legal separation agreements for cohabitees and all legal matters relating to living together and splitting up.

Call 020 8290 7992 for our Bromley team, 01732 457575 for Sevenoaks, 020 7481 6393 for central London or 01372 750100 for our Surrey team. Alternatively email your enquiry to We offer a fixed fee, no obligation 1 hour interview so that we may provide you with initial advice and suggest the options for your next course of action.

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