Family

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Simon Craddock

Partner and Head of Family Banbury

Insolvency

Living together but not married

In many ways, living with a partner is just like being in a marriage. But the law sees things very differently. 

Cohabiting doesn’t give you the same rights as you’d have if you were married, and it’s important to understand that from the outset. It means that when a co-habiting relationship ends, you may be entitled to less out of it then if you were divorcing.

Here are questions customers commonly ask:

  1. Can I claim maintenance from my partner?
    The law doesn’t say that, as a co-habitee, you are entitled to maintenance payments when that relationship ends. You may be able to agree something with your ex-partner, but there’s overarching legal right to maintenance. 
  2. Can I make a claim on my partner’s assets?
    Co-habitees do not have the same rights on the breakdown of a relationship as married couples. This is a complex area of law with no clearly defined guidelines, but we’ll be able to advise you on whether or not you may have a claim. You need to be aware that the law doesn’t take into account fairness or reasonableness when dividing a couple’s property. It all comes down to who owns what, based on financial contribution or on what you and your partner intended. 
  3. What will happen to the children?
    The court will not make any orders in relation to the children unless there is a dispute and either parent has applied to the court to resolve issues.  Our factsheet on Children Matters has more information on this. 
  4. What is a co-habitation agreement?
    It is an agreement setting out arrangements which will apply when the parties are living together. It also establishes each party’s rights on the breakdown of the relationship. This sort of agreement is becoming increasingly popular. 
  5. Are co-habitation agreements legally binding?
    They’re yet to be fully tested in court. But, they can be useful as evidence of a common intention to share property if there is a dispute about ownership of assets on separation. If you are thinking of co-habiting, it’s a good idea to get an agreement in place. You and your partner should each get independent advice from a solicitor; this in itself is evidence that you both intend the agreement to be binding. 
  6. What sorts of terms should a co-habitation agreement cover?
    The agreement should only deal with financial and property matters. Any reference to other living arrangements or any terms which appear vague or uncertain may make the agreement unenforceable.
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