Unmarried couples

There is no such thing as a common law marriage. If you live with your partner, buy a property together or have children, the law does not offer automatic protection. Our family lawyers can bring you clarity about where you stand.

Legal protection for unmarried couples

Most people are unaware that the law is different for couples who are not married. The rights of one spouse against another simply do not exist if you only live together – even for many years. This can leave one of you at a real disadvantage.

For example, you may not be allowed to continue living in your home or you may not be entitled to a share of the sale proceeds when your relationship ends.

Also, the courts do not have the same powers to order maintenance or other forms of financial support for you or your children.

This all means that you should get clear legal advice: 

  • When you buy a property together 
  • When you have children 
  • If your relationship is breaking down

You may not need much advice, but you should understand your position. It is critical to be clear from the outset what your rights are, and what you want to happen if the relationship breaks down or one of you dies.

It can help to draw up a legally binding cohabitation agreement to make things clear from the outset.

Our expert team of family solicitors can often help for a fixed fee. Call us for a free initial chat to find out more.


Our family lawyers

  • We have one of the largest and best known family law teams in the country. We specialise in helping couples to resolve legal issues and avoid disputes. 
  • All our family solicitors are members of Resolution, an organisation that promotes a conciliatory and constructive approach to family law. Nigel Shepherd is the current Vice Chair of Resolution and David Salter is a past chair. Several of our solicitors are leading practitioners in the dispute resolution field and are experts in using alternative methods to resolve disputes instead of going to court.

Our experience

  • We have acted in many cases where the terms need to be discussed when property is purchased jointly, for example looking at who recovers their contribution, and how, when the relationship breaks down. 
  • We have acted in many cases for the parents of children outside marriage, in negotiating financial and living arrangements. 
  • We commonly draft cohabitation agreements, to prevent disputes about the financial contributions between couples who live together. 
  • We draft pre-nuptial agreements when couples decide to get married, to clarify what happens financially if the relationship breaks down. 
  • Our clients typically may be young couples, buying property for the first time together. It is important to work out from the outset what happens when the property is sold. This prevents problems arising later.

What our clients and others say about us

Our family solicitors are regarded nationally as market leaders. We are highly rated in both Chambers UK and Legal 500, following independent research. Comments about our family lawyers from peers and clients include the following: 

  • “Mills & Reeve is described as a ‘progressive firm’, and this is demonstrated in its tailored and flexible approach to matters … ‘they’re at the forefront of what they do’ say sources.” Chambers UK
  • “The team at Mills & Reeve is ‘prompt’, ‘careful’ and ‘co-operative’, and provides an ‘excellent service’. It has a leading reputation in the region, and is regularly called upon to advise high net worth individuals in relation to matrimonial disputes, pre-nuptial agreements and child cases.” Legal 500

Family and matrimonial
Family and matrimonial