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Cohabitation Disputes

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Experienced Cohabitation Agreement Solicitors

We have a team of experienced cohabitation solicitors that have dealt with various cohabitation family situations and are here to provide you with future security. We can assist you with:

  • Providing cohabitation advice and creating joint agreements
  • Creating a cohabitation agreement 
  • Preparing a declaration of trust 
  • Advising on a legally binding will 
  • Cohabitation disputes
  • Will services 

Let’s start with the basics – what is cohabitation?

In the UK approximately 2.9 million couples live together without marrying. It has become increasingly popular for couples to live together without getting married. Many believe that simply by living together, they will acquire rights over their partner’s assets. As English Law stands, this is simply not true. On the breakdown of marriage, a couple’s relationship is protected by law; this is not the same with a cohabiting couple.

What are my cohabitation rights?

Cohabiting couples do not enjoy access to the same legal rights as married couples. This means that a fair distribution of property, money and pension will not be considered by the courts, should you decide to end your relationship. 

If you are a cohabiting couple that has children together then there are certain legal options, which allow for financial support to be provided for any dependents. However, these claims are for the benefit of children who are under 16 or in continuing education and not for the adult in the relationship.

Let’s look at two illustrations:

  1. Say, someone moves in with their partner, selling their own home and giving up their job, using the proceeds to meet the couple’s general living expenses. Several years could go by with happy cohabitation before problems set in that lead to separation. You might think that on separation the person, who had sold their home and given up their job could assume that he/she would be entitled to an interest in the property they lived in and or compensation for their loss. This may not be the case.
  2. A couple are buying their first home together, contributing different amounts to their deposit. They find their dream home and instruct a solicitor to deal with the purchase of it. Unless they make it clear to the solicitor that they want the property to be owned otherwise, there is a very real likelihood that the property will be purchased in their joint names. This means that irrespective of who contributed what to the purchase, legally the property is owned equally. 

This can be challenged through the courts, although it is a complex area, so it is advisable to take advice from your solicitor.

Cohabitation disputes are costly and can be prevented. It is important to protect your welfare and have financial security in the event of a breakup further down the line.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document between unmarried couples to prevent future cohabitation disputes, in the case of a breakup. The legal document sets out agreements for property and money to ensure both parties have financial security and to reduce the chance of future property disputes. Our friendly family law solicitors can work with you to agree a fair cohabitation agreement and outline the benefits of one.

Financial disputes

The courts do not take financial wealth into consideration if you are a cohabiting couple, unless you are going against the word of your cohabitation agreement or will. If you have children together under the age of 16 or who are in higher education, the legal position indicates that financial support will need to be provided to support their welfare. One individual may not abide by this or may not support fair payments, leading to a dispute. These cases do not take place in a family court but are dealt with through civil court procedure.

Cohabitation agreements

Cohabitation agreements are legally binding and are for couples living together or about to. The purpose of cohabitation is to ensure finance and property is divided to a fair agreement, in the event of a relationship break up.

An agreement may outline:

  • How the shared property value will be distributed in the event of separation.
  • A financial lump sum payment to be made to a partner or child/children
  • Expensive assets, such as cars, more properties or businesses.
  • Household expense contributions such as extension costs, re-decoration, support with monthly mortgage payments and bills/council tax.

Our family law solicitors are experienced in creating cohabitation agreements and providing advice, they can work with you closely to agree on a fair cohabitation agreement for both parties, tailored to your family situation.

Declarations of trust

If you own, have a share in some property or plan to own a property with your partner, it is important to have a legally binding document that outlines the ownership. This agreement can be created before or after a property is purchased, however, this must be agreed upon between both parties.

For example, one individual may be paying the mortgage initially, before you both move in together. However, you may decide to take out a joint mortgage for the property and want to change the ownership rights, which will need to be done legally.

You may agree to split the property 50/50, give a certain percentage of the sale, provide a set lump sum and divide the balance remaining or decide on agreeing to other alternatives. 

Our family solicitors can support you with creating a legal declaration of trust, so as to avoid any property disputes in the event of the unfortunate breakdown of the relationship.


Around 54% of people have no will provision in place. For a cohabiting couple, wills are even more significant, as the partner will not be entitled to inherit the estate automatically. The estate will go to the biological children, however, if not related biologically or by adoption, assets are likely to go back to the biological family, even if it was not their wishes. The surviving cohabitant is unlikely to be entitled to any assets if there is nothing assigned to them in the will, and will have to dispute, which will be expensive and difficult to win. 

Next steps… 

Our family law solicitors in Stafford, Telford, Birmingham and the surrounding areas are here to support and provide advice about cohabitation. If you wish to discuss your family situation or want to create a cohabitation agreement to protect your future, our cohabitation solicitors can support you and offer a FREE 30-minute consultation.

For further information, please e-mail us or call 01785 223440