Living Together

There is a long established myth that if you live together as man and wife, without getting married, you acquire special legal rights in relation to each other, similar to those enjoyed by people who marry. Many people still falsely believe that cohabitees are protected by ‘common law marriage’, but such a concept does not exist.

The area of law relating to cohabiting couples is complex and there are a number of areas that should be carefully considered:-


Property may be jointly owned as joint tenants or as tenants in common.

Joint tenants own property exclusively and in the event of a partners death, the home automatically passes to the surviving partner.

Property held as tenants in common is owned on a proportioned basis and each person may leave their share to whoever they wish, provided a valid Will is in existence.

However, the rights each person acquires in relation to property will depend upon the circumstances of the case and will be governed by the law of trusts.


Unmarried partners are not under a duty to maintain each other in the event of a relationship breakdown.

Domestic Violence

The law relating to domestic violence applies to cohabiting couples and protection may be sought from actual violence or the threat of violence and, provided you have a legal entitlement to the property, the Court may order that your partner be excluded from that property.


Children from a cohabiting relationship are entitled to be maintained. If you are the main carer, then you are able to claim for child support. This can be done through the Child Maintenance Enforcement Commission if you are unable to reach an agreement between yourselves.

In some circumstances, application for financial provision can be made for a lump sum payment or to allow you to continue to live in the family home with the children, provided it is to be for the benefit of the children.

Cohabitation Agreement

It is possible to enter into an agreement when embarking on a cohabiting relationship to regulate the arrangements during the period of cohabitation and to prevent or reduce dispute should you later separate. Matters such as financial arrangements, ownership of property and issues relating to children can be incorporated into the deed.

At Walker Foster, we can advise you of the benefits of entering into a cohabitation agreement and also of the remedies available to you in the event of a relationship breakdown.

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