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    What is Cohabitation?

    If a couple is not legally married, they will not have the benefit of the laws that relate to divorce, separation, financial provision, and maintenance. Despite the widely held belief, the term “common-law wife” or “…husband” does not confer any legal rights where the couple is not married.

    In such circumstances, cohabiting couples often have to rely on complicated laws relating to trusts and property. Many family lawyers are not comfortable advising on this complex area of law.

    Our team of specialists is experienced in this field and is up to date with the constantly evolving case law. They can advise you on making the most of the available remedies to help you achieve the best outcome.

    At the beginning of relationships, we advise on cohabitation agreements that can be used to deal with these potential issues in the event of a relationship breakdown.

    Specialist family law accreditations

    We have individuals on our team of our team who have earned The Law Society’s Family Law accreditation. This means they have shown a high level of competence and extensive knowledge in family law matters. Some of our solicitors also hold The Law Society’s Children Law accreditation, so they have the ability to work directly with children and understand their needs and wishes.

    How much does it cost?

    The cost varies depending on what is involved and the work required. We offer a one-hour fixed fee initial appointment during which we will assess your circumstances. We will then explain the costs involved and give you information about the funding options available to you.

    If you choose to fund the work privately, we may be able to offer a fixed fee service for relatively straightforward matters. In more complicated cases, we offer flexible payment arrangements and will always provide a detailed cost estimate in writing at the outset. We will update you regularly and help you to budget.

    Frequently asked questions about Cohabitation

    • What does Cohabitation mean?

      Cohabitation is an arrangement where two people are not married but live together. They are often involved in a romantic intimate relationship on a long-term or permanent basis.

      The cohabitation of unmarried couples does not bring the same rights on separation as a divorce/dissolution might.

    • What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

      A cohabitation agreement can help to avoid the costly and time-consuming process of court proceedings should you and your partner separate in the future.

      It is for the cohabiting couple to decide what they want the agreement to cover, but it can include:

      • How rent, mortgage, and household bills are paid;
      • What happens to joint bank accounts and pensions;
      • Property and assets that were owned before, or bought whilst living together;
      • Arrangements for children;
      • Arrangements for pets;
      • Next of kin rights

      Before entering into a cohabitation agreement, it is highly recommended that each party seeks independent legal advice.

    • How do I get a Cohabitation Agreement?
      A family law solicitor can help you prepare a cohabitation agreement and make sure it is legally binding. Cohabitation agreements can also be made between people who are not romantically involved – for example, friends or siblings.
    • Are Cohabitation Agreements legally binding?

      Cohabitation agreements can be similar to contracts. You and your partner will, in effect, create a contract with each other and the court will certainly consider the terms of it if they need to.

      However, they are not ‘watertight’ and it will depend on how the agreement was made. For example, did each party receive legal advice and did they provide full and frank information to each other before entering into the cohabitation agreement.

    • What are you entitled to when cohabiting?

      Cohabiting couples have no legal duty to support each other financially, either while you are living together or if you separate. Nor do you automatically share ownership of your possessions, savings, investments, and so on. In general, ownership is unaffected by moving in together.

    • Am I entitled to my partner's assets if we are not married?

      In general, unmarried couples can’t claim ownership of each other’s property in the event of a breakup. This applies to big investments (such as a house) and smaller items (such as furniture). Gifts made during the relationship remain the property of the recipient.

    • Does Cohabitation have an impact on debts?

      Unlike in a divorce, an individual is only liable for debts which are in their own name, they are not liable for any debts which are just in their partner’s name.

    • Why go to Birchall Blackburn Law?

      Our approachable specialist lawyers provide practical and cost-effective advice. We will frankly assess your prospects of success and explain the position sensitively and in plain English.

      The law on cohabitation is complex and, in the absence of clear documentation, we have the skills to examine large volumes of personal papers to help to identify the important documents to support your case.

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    - Did you know?

    24.3% of unmarried couples live together - an increase of 4% in the last ten years.

    What do our clients say?

    M. Weafer

    Very helpful, attentive, kind and patient.


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    Everything went well. I felt comfortable talking to the staff.


    Very good service.

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    Her bedside manner was excellent.

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    S. Wilson

    Extremely efficient service.  I was apprehensive about making a Will but Jessica guided me through everything – she explained everything and gave me space to ask any questions.  Would use her again.

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