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Cohabitation Solicitors

At Eric Robinson Solicitors, we advise and support unmarried couples who are separating, and help them deal with the financial consequences.

Unmarried couples living together, whether with or without children, is the fastest growing family type in the UK. The most recent data from the ONS cites that between 2011 and 2021, both opposite and same-sex cohabitation have increased 27.6% and 1.3% respectively. 

Despite this increase, it is much less common for cohabiting couples to take any form of legal advice prior to the cohabitation, or even at the point of separation. This means that many people have either an incorrect or incomplete understanding of their legal rights.

There is a common belief that if you live with someone for a certain length of time you become “common law man and wife”. This is incorrect because there is no such concept in law. Instead, unmarried couples who live together are known as “cohabitees”.

If you are looking to cohabit and/or buy a property with a partner in England or Wales, there are steps that you can take to protect your position in the event that the relationship fails and you subsequently choose to separate. This is known as a cohabitation agreement.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that details the split of jointly owned assets, finances, property and child arrangements should an unmarried couple who are living together decide to separate.

Currently, if you do not have an agreement in place, when a period of cohabitation comes to an end there is no one single piece of legislation or law that a separating partner can use in order to resolve property, financial and/or children issues.

This is why a cohabitation agreement is important to consider – it protects both parties. The document only comes into force should you and your partner choose to end your relationship, and from our experience, having a cohabitation agreement can save a lot of heartache and cost in the event that a relationship does not work out.

Protecting your rights when cohabiting

Cohabiting couples do not have the same rights as married couples or those in a civil partnership as there is nothing legally tying you to one another. Although the government is being urged to improve protection for cohabiting couples, as it stands, it is important to protect yourself should you decide to separate. Without an agreement in place that details yours and your partner’s wishes, you are unable to put in a claim against any assets in the name of the other party, and this is still true even if you have children together, or have been together for a long period of time. 

As an example, if you have been living in your partner’s property and making regular financial contributions for a number of years, if you are not a legal joint owner, you will still have no financial interest in the property in the event that you separate. Alternatively, you may have accrued joint savings over many years (or are planning to), which may be difficult to split in the event of separation. These examples highlight just a couple of the reasons why it is so important to have an agreement in place, as it protects both parties financially. You may also want to consider a Will, as this adds an additional level of protection should the worst happen.  

What can, and cannot, be included in a cohabitation agreement?

There are a number of assets that may be considered as part of a cohabitation agreement. Examples of these include (but are not limited to):

  • Ownership of property / deposits / share of the mortgage
  • How household bills will be dealt with
  • Bank accounts and finances
  • Childcare 
  • Pensions
  • Jointly owned assets such as cars, furniture, jewellery etc
  • Payment of any jointly accrued debts
  • Pets

Considering also what cannot be included, this extends to anything that is solely in one individual’s name. For example, family inheritance or cash savings.

How Eric Robinson Solicitors can help

Our team of solicitors is qualified to work with couples to design and write cohabitation agreements. We will work with both parties to identify precisely how you would like to split assets, property and finances should you decide to separate.

If you would like to find out more, the next step is to book an initial fixed fee interview with a team member at one of our branches. You can do this by calling one of our solicitors offices directly, or by filling out an enquiry form on our website – look for the button at the bottom of each page.

Contact us today, we have solicitors offices in Winchester , Southampton (Hedge End) , Southampton (Bitterne)LymingtonLondon Richmond and Chandler’s Ford.


Do couples who cohabit have the same rights as married couples?

There is often confusion about this but they do not.

But we’re common law man and wife?

We often hear this but it is not correct. There is no such legal concept as common law man and wife.

What rights will I have if I separate?

It will depend on the exact circumstances but the two main areas to consider will be how to share any property and what arrangements to make for any children.

How can I protect myself?

The best way to protect yourself is to plan and to take advice before moving in together. This will enable you to understand the impact of living together and what needs to be considered to ensure that you are protected as much as possible. It is also important that you understand what you may be entitled to if you separate.

Why would I need one?

We would recommend that you have one as this means that you will have discussed all of the issues that you need to discuss before you move in together and this should help alleviate any problems if the relationship were to break down.

What is the process?

We can draw up the agreement to include the information that you want included. We would then recommend that your partner takes independent legal advice.

Do we both need a lawyer?

We would recommend that both parties take legal advice. However, only one lawyer is required to draw up the document.

How can I find out more?

You can find out more by booking an Initial Fixed Fee Interview with one of our team

How do couples end up cohabiting?

An unmarried couple who live together in either rented accommodation or purchased property are cohabiting. This may be due to a conscious decision to rent or purchase property, or where one party moves into the other’s home.

Can you write your own cohabitation agreement?

It is possible to write your own cohabitation agreement, however, there are certain legalities that need to be met in order for it to be legally binding. With this in mind, we would always recommend that a solicitor is involved in the process of writing a cohabitation agreement to ensure that should it need to be utilised, it will hold up in court.

How much does a cohabitation agreement cost?

The cost of a cohabitation agreement is led by how complex your living arrangements are, whether you have children together, and how much detail you would like to include. We will be able to advise costings once we have more information about your specific circumstances. Please do note that your fee quote will depend on the complexity of your personal circumstances and therefore the agreement required.

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