Cohabiting couple families are the second largest family type in the UK, and the fastest growing. The number of cohabiting couples breaking up has also has overtaken separation between married couples for the first time according to the Marriage Foundation. This means cohabiting parents, despite being only one fifth of couples, now account for the majority of family breakdown. It is then clear to see why it is alarming that two thirds of cohabiting couples do not understand that there is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’ according to Resolution.

As the myth goes, a cohabiting couple gains legal rights similar to a married couple after a period of time. Despite its popularity, this is only a myth and the truth is that these couples have no automatic rights and very limited legal options should the relationship come to an end.

So what does this mean for cohabiting couples? There are no guaranteed rights to ownership of each other’s property, the surviving cohabitant has no automatic right to inherit their late partner’s estate and also cannot rely upon their former partner’s contributions for the purposes of State Pensions, and a cohabitant who stays at home to care for the children cannot make any claims in their own right for property, maintenance or pension-sharing.

These types of situations can often leave people with no financial security, no home and no access to savings or pensions. The lack of awareness of the legal risks associated with living together means that cohabitants often do not take steps to protect themselves.

There are options available such as entering in to a cohabitation agreement to protect your legal position and afford you the protection of a safety net that doesn’t exist if you don’t tie the knot. The division of assets on the breakdown of a cohabiting relationship is a complex area of law. It is therefore advisable to take legal advice on your rights early on in separation.


If you require advice or assistance in relation to any of these issues or other family law matters at Jordans Solicitors we have a dedicated family law team who can help. Please dial 01924 387 110 and ask to speak with a member of the family law team or request a call back.

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