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Cohabitation & Unmarried Couples

Cohabitation & Unmarried Couples

We can help protect your rights and resolve disputes.

Many couples choose to live together without getting married or entering into a civil partnership, however it’s important to know that unmarried couples have fewer legal rights.

In the event that your relationship breaks down or one partner falls ill or dies, there is a lack of legal protection for cohabiting couples. For example, assets are not divided as they would be in a divorce and there is no automatic entitlement to financial, capital, maintenance, pension or inheritance claims.

However, there are steps you can take to protect yourself or action you can take if there are disputes to resolve or you decide to separate.

A legally binding cohabitation agreement sets out arrangements for finances, property and children whilst you’re living together, if you split up or if either one of you falls ill or dies - it is an excellent way of protecting yourselves and your family, helping reduce some of the uncertainty that a cohabiting couple can have when sharing a home.

It’s ideal to make a cohabitation agreement before you move in together, but it can be made at any time. There are other legal documents that may also help to protect your finances, assets, interests and wishes, such as a declaration of trust or a will.

At Susan Howarth & Co, our specialist cohabitation solicitors will help you understand cohabitation law, explaining the various legal options and provide the right advice and guidance tailored to your individual situation to help protect your future or resolve your differences.

We can help you navigate your way when cohabiting, enabling you to confidently move forward with life.

Contact our cohabitation solicitors in Northwich, Cheshire

If you’d like to discuss your legal needs with one of our cohabitation lawyers today, please call 01606 48777 or email

Frequently asked questions about cohabitation and living together

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement allows a cohabiting couple to decide how their assets would be divided if they were to separate. It can also cover issues such as who would get to stay in the family home and arrangements for any children. This can provide certainty for the future and reduce the risk of conflict during a separation.

A cohabitation agreement should be prepared with a specialist family lawyer's support to ensure it is legally valid and covers all your requirements.

Our cohabitation agreement solicitors can assist clients with preparing a cohabitation or ‘living together’ agreement which deals with financial and/or childcare arrangements should the relationship break down.

What are my rights if we are unmarried and decide to separate?

When a couple separates who were not married or in a civil partnership, there is often confusion about each person’s rights and the risk of serious conflict over issues such as finances and children. Getting early legal advice to help navigate this challenge as smoothly as possible while protecting your future is sensible.

Our cohabitation lawyers can guide you through your separation, ensuring you understand your rights and achieve the best possible outcome for you and your loved ones. We can help negotiate the separation of your finances and arrangements for children and advise on court proceedings where appropriate.

Can you help with cohabitation disputes?

Disputes between couples in a cohabiting partnership can arise both during the relationship and if it ends. Finding a positive resolution to such disputes is not always easy, so having expert help can make all the difference.

Our cohabitation dispute solicitors can assist with negotiation and mediation to resolve disputes amicably, saving you time, money and stress. If an amicable agreement is impossible, we can support you through court proceedings, ensuring your rights are defended.

What is a living together agreement?

A ‘Living together agreement’ was the previous name for what are now known as ‘cohabitation agreements’.

Is a cohabitation agreement legally binding?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal contract between the partners, meaning it can be enforced in court (if properly prepared). If one partner were to breach the terms of the agreement, then the other would have the option of making a civil claim against them in court.

A legally valid cohabitation agreement must:

  • Be signed by both partners
  • Be entered into freely and voluntarily
  • Only be signed following full disclosure of both partners’ assets, debts and any other liabilities
  • Be updated if either partner experiences a significant change in circumstances that could render the agreement unfair, e.g., the couple have children, or one of them receives a substantial inheritance

Our cohabitation solicitors can ensure your agreement meets all the necessary criteria to be legally enforceable, giving you peace of mind.

I’m separating from my unmarried partner – what are my rights?

When separating, it is critical to understand that unmarried partners have no automatic legal rights to each other’s property or assets. Your rights will therefore depend entirely on the situation. For example, as covered below, you may have rights to the family home if your name is on the mortgage or tenancy agreement, but otherwise, you likely have no rights.

The key factor will be whether you have ‘parental responsibility’ for children. In broad terms, this means that you legally have the right to be involved in decisions about your children’s upbringing and a responsibility to provide for them. Whether you have parental responsibility for a child will depend on the situation, including whether you were named on their birth certificate.

If you are separating from your unmarried partner, getting expert legal advice straightaway is essential to ensure you understand your position.

Can I stay in the family home when separating from my unmarried partner?

Your rights regarding your shared home will depend on the circumstances. If the property is owned or rented in both partners’ names, you will have a legal right to stay there.

If the property is solely in your partner’s name, you have no automatic right to stay there. However, you may be able to secure the right to stay in the property temporarily by applying to a court. If you wish to do so, you should seek advice from an experienced family lawyer as soon as possible.

An important point to recognise is that if you own the property together, it is assumed that you each own 50% of the property, irrespective of how much you contributed financially to the property. This can be avoided by having a ‘deed of trust’ or a cohabitation agreement documenting what share each person owns.

Is cohabitation the same as a civil partnership?

The Civil Partnership Act, which came into force in December 2005, has enabled couples to register their relationship and create what is known as a civil partnership. Civil partnerships bring certain rights similar to those of a married couple.

Those who live together but are neither married nor have entered a civil partnership are referred to as ‘cohabiting’, and they do not have the same rights towards each other. This is why it is so important for cohabiting couples to make a cohabitation agreement.

For more information, please see our Civil Partnership Fact Sheet.

Why Choose Susan Howarth & Co for cohabitation legal advice?

We believe everyone has the right to access justice and expert legal advice. This can make navigating even the most complicated family law situations much simpler and less stressful. We are very proud of our family law department and the fantastic reputation our high-calibre solicitors have built in the community.

At Susan Howarth & Co, we approach every case with professionalism and commitment. No client’s needs are the same, which is why we always take the time to listen to you and understand your individual requirements.

Our expertise is independently recognised, including:

  • Ranked as a Band 2 legal practice in the Chambers & Partners UK legal guide
  • Directors Susan Howarth and Victoria Poole are both also ranked as ‘Notable Practitioners’ by Chambers & Partners UK
  • Ranked as a Band 3 Leading Family Law Firm in The Legal 500 directory
  • Susan Howarth has been ranked as a ‘Leading Individual’ for 4 consecutive years by the Legal 500 and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2023 as one of seven individuals for Family Law (North West)
  • Accreditation by the Law Society for Family Law and Children Law
  • Many of our team are members of Resolution, the leading professional network for family lawyers
  • Year on year we gain Lexcel accreditation for excellence in practice management
  • We are winners of the Best Family and Childcare Law Firm (North West) in 2023 and in the AI Legal Awards
  • We have been finalists of the Lexis Nexis Family Law Firm of the Year (North) for 2 consecutive years

A key benefit we can offer is our in-house family mediation service. We have a specialist Resolution-trained Family Mediator who is also a Resolution-accredited Specialist in Domestic Violence and Children Law (private) and an FMC-accredited Family Mediator (all issues).​

Contact our cohabitation solicitors in Northwich, Cheshire

If you’d like to discuss your legal needs with one of our cohabitation lawyers today, give us a call on 01606 48777 or email

For more information or to speak to one of our experts, please call us on 01606 48777

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