Attitudes towards marriage are changing with many couples now choosing to cohabit before, or as an alternative, to marriage.

Moving in together is usually a joyous event in a relationship, but, understandably, few cohabiting couples consider what would happen if the relationship broke down.

For married couples and civil partners, family law sets out clear rules on the division of money, assets, and personal belongings upon divorce or dissolution. For cohabiting couples, there are no legal rights to each other’s property and the fair division of assets.

Therefore, when cohabiting couples break up, issues regarding the ownership of property and questions about how the finances are to be arranged can quickly arise, causing lengthy and stressful disputes which may end up in court. To ensure that your position is secure in the future, our family solicitors can advise you on whether a cohabitation agreement is suitable for you.

Even if you do not have a cohabitation agreement, and sadly your relationship has now broken, here at Hubbard Pegman & Whitney, our family law solicitors have specialist experience assisting and supporting clients through cohabitation disputes. This can include financial disagreements, disputes over property, arrangements and financial provision for children, and advice on inheritance and claims for financial provision.

We seek to negotiate a settlement and able to help a significant proportion of our clients resolve their cohabitation dispute out of court. We are also skilled in utilising non-combative methods of Alternative Dispute Resolution such as mediation.

If it does become necessary to go to court, we will arrange robust representation with the goal of getting your matter resolved as positively, efficiently, and cost-effectively as possible.

Our family solicitors’ expertise

If you and your partner have chosen to part ways but are having difficulty untangling your lives, our highly skilled family solicitors can provide clear, sensitive advice on all cohabitation matters, including:

  • Disputes surrounding Cohabitation Agreements
  • Financial disputes
  • Property disputes and claims for beneficial ownership of property (for example, if the title to the family home is only in one of your names)

Do unmarried couples have common law rights when splitting up?

Many couples move in together on the assumption that, after a certain period of time, usually 7 years, they will acquire “common law” marriage rights and become entitled to the fair division of money and property if they break up.

In fact, “common law marriage” is a myth. Unmarried couples never acquire legal rights by virtue of staying together for a long time.

Unfortunately, this has led to some individuals falling on financial hardship or being forced to move out of their home after a break-up.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is an arrangement between an unmarried couple in relation to what will happen if they break up, including:

  • How the mortgage, rent, and/or bills will be paid;
  • What happens to joint accounts, savings, investments, and pensions;
  • How debts will be paid;
  • How property and assets, owned prior or acquired after the relationship began, will be divided;
  • Who gets to keep personal belongings, including cars, furniture, and pets;
  • Next of kin rights

Cohabitation agreements can provide certainty for couples, potentially avoiding disputes later on if they break up.

If you are choosing to live with your partner before getting married, our family law lawyers can help you agree and draft a cohabitation agreement.

We also provide advice where the cohabitation agreement is disputed after the break-up. For example, where one party claims its terms are unfair.

What can you do if your partner won’t leave your shared home?

If you and your former partner have not signed a cohabitation agreement, whether you can make your ex-partner to leave your shared home will depend on how it is owned or rented.

If it is owned or rented in your joint names, it will be difficult to make them leave. However, if you are concerned about continuing to cohabit, for example, because of domestic violence issues, we can provide sensitive advice on potentially obtaining an emergency remedy.

What happens to personal belongings?

As unmarried couples do not have any rights to each other’s property, personal belongings will be divided according to who owns them. For example, the car will belong solely to the person whose name the title is in, and the TV will belong to the person who bought it.

The division of personal belongings is often difficult to prove and can potentially result in long legal battles involving endless lists and receipts. Wherever possible, we can help you keep the process amicable by negotiating a division which is fair.

For friendly, expert guidance on matters relating to child arrangements, you can contact our family law team now by calling 020 8735 9770 or email






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