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Cohabitation is the name given to unmarried couples living together. Whether you have previously been married, or are living with your first ‘partner’, you are called cohabitees.  But what does this actually mean in practice, and what are your legal rights if anything were to happen to the relationship, or to either of you?

My partner owns our home in their sole name, do I receive a share of this automatically?

Contrary to belief “common law” marriage does not exist, so there is no legal entitlement to half of the house, or even a share of any equity in the property. The law looks at what has been agreed and how the property is legally owned.

We both own the property, but I put in more money, surely I get more back?

It depends on what you agreed in writing. When you buy a property, you decide what percentage you are each entitled to and if there is no agreement in writing, or any departure from 50/50 ownership, the answer would be no.

Should I get a cohabitation agreement if we are renting?

Yes, it is still a good idea to enter into a cohabitation agreement even if you are renting. In the agreement, you will set out who is responsible for the cost of rent, bills and expenses. You may also own other property together, such as a car or furniture. You may also have children to consider, either from a previous relationship or children that you have together. While you cannot make provision for care arrangements for children in a cohabitation agreement, it can be useful to manage money matters.

My partner has children, would I be responsible for them if anything happened to them?

You have no automatic legal responsibility for any step-children if anything happens to either of you.

If my partner was to die, but has no Will, would I receive all of their estate?

In the absence of a valid Will, you would not automatically be entitled to a share of their ‘estate’ and you would have to go to Court to make a claim.

What can you do?

If you are going to live with your partner as ‘cohabitees’, it would be a good idea to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement. This is an agreement between the two of you which sets out how you are to hold assets, and how assets are to be divided, should the relationship breakdown. This will provide certainty for you and your partner as to where you both stand

While many feel that making a cohabitation agreement is pessimistic, it is more like an insurance policy. Having such an agreement in place can allow you to move forward in your lives together with confidence and security.

Kelly Parks
  • Director
  • Solicitor
  • Head of Family Law

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