FAMILY & RELATIONSHIP LAW

Cohabitation

Expert Cohabitation Solicitors

Cohabiting has legal consequences that you should be aware of if you’re thinking of moving in with someone else.

Our experienced team of Family and Relationships Law Solicitors are ready to assist you with if you’re thinking of taking this step, or need help resolving an issue you’ve encountered. Get in touch with our team today to arrange a no obligation conversation.

If you’re cohabiting and are concerned about where you stand on what legal responsibilities you have as a result, our Family and Relationship Law team can give you clarity on your situation and advise you on the best course of action.

What Cohabitation related services do we provide?

On the topic of cohabitation, our team of expert Relationships Solicitors can help cohabitants with:

  • Cohabitation agreements
  • Declarations of Trust
  • Severing Joint Tenancies

Contrary to what friends and others may tell you, there is no legal recognition of the term ‘common law’ wife or husband and no legal rights are gained by people simply living together, however long that may be for.

Entering into a cohabitation as a couple in the UK entails important legal considerations and implications that individuals should be aware of to protect their interests. The number of people who have cohabited at some stage of their lives is now probably at least equal to or greater than the number who have ever been cohabiting, or married or in a civil partnership. However, the legal rights and obligations of cohabiting couples differ significantly from those of married couples, and a lack of understanding around this can lead to unforeseen consequences. Let’s explore the key legal considerations and implications for cohabitants in the UK, with a focus on financial arrangements, property interests, children, and the death of one of the parties.

Financial arrangements are a critical aspect of cohabitation. Unlike married couples, cohabitants do not have automatic financial responsibilities or entitlements to each other’s assets or income. Cohabitants are advised to enter into a cohabitation agreement, a legally binding contract that outlines their financial arrangements, including contributions to household expenses, property ownership, and potential financial support in the event of separation. A well-drafted cohabitation agreement can provide clarity and protect the financial interests of both parties.

Property interests can be particularly complex for cohabitants. The ownership of property is determined by land and property laws rather than the fact of cohabitation. If a property is solely owned by one partner, the other may not have automatic rights to it, even if they have contributed financially. To protect their interests, cohabitants should consider entering into a declaration of trust or a joint ownership agreement, clearly defining the shares of ownership and the financial contributions of each party. This can help avoid disputes and provide legal protection in the event of separation or death.

When it comes to children of the relationship, cohabiting couples have similar legal responsibilities and rights as married couples. Both parents have parental responsibility for their children, and decisions regarding the child’s welfare, education, and medical care should be made jointly. A parental responsibility agreement or, if necessary, a court order may be required in the case of dispute. In the event of separation, cohabiting parents should also consider living arrangements, contact rights, and financial support arrangements.

The death of one of the parties can have significant legal implications for cohabitants. Unlike married couples, cohabitants do not have automatic inheritance rights. If a cohabitant dies without a valid will, their assets may not pass to their surviving partner. It is crucial for cohabitants to make wills that clearly state their intentions regarding inheritance and provision for their partner. Without proper estate planning, the surviving cohabitant may face potential financial hardship and legal challenges.

The implications of cohabitation differ for first-time cohabitants and those cohabiting later in life after previous marriages and children from former relationships. First-time cohabitants may have fewer financial entanglements and obligations, making it relatively easier to disentangle their affairs in the event of separation. However, cohabitants entering into a new relationship later in life, particularly after previous marriages and children, may face more complex financial considerations. Existing financial commitments, property ownership, and child support arrangements from previous relationships can intertwine with the cohabitation, requiring careful legal planning to ensure the protection of all parties involved.

In summary, entering into a cohabitation as a couple in the UK requires careful attention to legal considerations and implications. Cohabitants should be aware of their limited financial and property rights, consider entering into cohabitation agreements and declarations of trust, establish legal parentage for their children, and create valid wills to protect their interests. Seeking legal advice and guidance from professionals specialising in family law is essential to navigate the complexities and potential unforeseen consequences of cohabitation in different circumstances.

Cohabitation FAQs

What is Cohabitation?

Cohabitation is when two people in a relationship choose to live together in a rented or owned property without being married.

Is Cohabitation Legally Binding?

No, cohabitation on without a Cohabitation Agreement is not legally binding and their party would have any rights against each-other. The only way in which this is the case is if the couple in questions have children.

What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is an arrangement between two people that are living together but not married that sets out everyone’s responsibilities. This can be financial and domestic responsibilities from things as simple as who does the washing up to more complex things like an arrangement if the couple break up and someone moves out.

It is advised that these are carried out before a couple move in together to avoid issues before they arise.

What is the main legal difference between Cohabitation and Marriage?

Cohabitation and marriage are similar but not the same by any means. They are more like stages of commitment as with cohabitation a couple do not have any rights when it comes to the finances or actions either party choose to make.
Whereas marriage has many legal and financial consequences including taxation, inheritance, property and asset ownership and care. The legal consequences are only limited by agreements like pre-nuptial agreements and post-nuptial agreements.

Do cohabitants have the same financial rights and responsibilities as married couples?

No, cohabitants do not have the same automatic financial rights and responsibilities as married couples. Financial arrangements need to be clearly defined through a cohabitation agreement.

What is a cohabitation agreement, and why is it important?

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract that outlines the financial arrangements between cohabitants, including property ownership, contributions, and potential financial support in the event of separation. It provides clarity and legal protection.

How are property interests determined for cohabitants?

Property interests are determined by land and property laws. If a property is solely owned by one partner, the other may not have automatic rights to it. A declaration of trust or joint ownership agreement can help protect the interests of both parties.

What legal rights do cohabiting couples have regarding children?

Cohabiting couples have similar legal responsibilities and rights as married couples regarding children. Both parents have parental responsibility, and decisions should be made jointly. Parental responsibility agreements or court orders can establish legal parentage.

What happens to assets and inheritance if a cohabitant dies?

Unlike married couples, cohabitants do not have automatic inheritance rights. Proper estate planning through a valid will is essential to ensure assets pass to the surviving partner.

What are the potential unforeseen consequences of cohabitation?

Unforeseen consequences can include financial disputes, uncertain property rights, and potential difficulties in dividing assets and resolving child custody matters in the event of separation.

Are the legal implications different for first-time cohabitants?

First-time cohabitants may have fewer financial entanglements, making it relatively easier to disentangle their affairs in the event of separation. However, proper legal arrangements are still necessary.

What additional legal considerations exist for those cohabiting later in life after previous marriages?

Cohabitants entering into a new relationship later in life may have more complex financial considerations, including existing financial commitments, property ownership, and child support arrangements from previous relationships.

How can cohabitants protect their financial interests and assets?

Cohabitants should consult legal professionals to understand their rights and responsibilities and to draft legally binding agreements, such as Cohabitation Agreements, Declarations of Trust, and Wills.

What if cohabitants separate and cannot agree on financial matters?

If cohabitants cannot agree on financial matters, they may need to seek legal advice and potentially resolve the dispute through mediation or, if necessary, court proceedings.

Are cohabitants entitled to each other's pension benefits?

Cohabitants are not automatically entitled to each other’s pension benefits. They need to make specific arrangements, such as a cohabitation agreement or a nomination of benefits form with the pension provider.

How can cohabitants ensure their children are protected legally?

Cohabitants should establish legal parentage through parental responsibility agreements or court orders, create a comprehensive parenting plan, and consider financial arrangements for child support and education.

Will a cohabitant automatically benefit from their partner’s life insurance?

No. The beneficiary of a life insurance policy will be determined by the directions given by the policy holder to the insurance company, or as specified in the deceased’s Will. Life insurance can be a very useful means of financial protection for cohabitants and their children. Specific advice should be taken from an independent financial adviser.

Meet our Team of Family and Relationship Solicitors

Atkins Dellow is member of

resolution family department

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