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Unmarried Couples and the Law (Cohabitation)

Unmarried Couples and the Law (Cohabitation)

Unmarried Couples and the Law


With more and more people choosing to live together rather than marrying, it is a good time to review this area of law.

It remains a myth that two people living together are “common-law husband and wife” and it is also a myth that you somehow acquire an interest in the other person’s property or assets after you have lived together for six months.

Cohabiting couples remain the least protected section of society, but there are things you can do.

Cohabitation Agreement

These Agreements set out who owns what and in what proportion and gives couples the freedom to set out how they intend to divide their property and assets should the relationship end.

They can also be used to record how the relationship will work, such as who pays the mortgage or food or who pays for refurbishment or renovation to the property and whether that in itself will give rise to an interest in the property or, whether they intend to take out life insurance or make a Will.


If you die without making a will (to die intestate) there is very restrictive rules governing who gets what.

Unmarried couples are not recognised under law.

Therefore the only way for an unmarried partner to inherit, is under a Will.

Buying a Property

Great care needs to be taken when buying a property as unmarried couples, or where couples are together but a property is bought in only one partner’s name.

Trust Law can be a legal minefield, so advice setting up a declaration of trust, for example, is critical.

A declaration can set out who provided what to the purchase price and can regulate who gets what proportion if the property needs to be sold.

Civil Partnerships

From 31st December 2019, heterosexual couples could enter into civil partnerships, something same-sex couples have been able to do since December 2005!

Whilst this is not to be confused with marriage, civil partnerships do convey certain legal rights similar to a married couple. Therefore legal advice should always be taken if contemplating this route given the ramifications and the change of a person’s status in the eyes of the law.

Cohabitation Agreements, Wills and Declarations of trust may seem unnecessary when the relationship is good but there existence can save a lot of acrimony, uncertainty and significant legal costs should the relationship turn bad.
View our Cohabitation Page
How Kerseys Can Help

If you have any questions or queries regarding the content of this article please do not hesitate contact Matt Clemence, Partner & Solicitor and the Head of the Family Department at [email protected] or telephone Ipswich 01473 213311 or Colchester 01206 584584, alternatively click “Call Me Back” and we will be happy to contact you.

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