Cohabitation solicitors



Cohabitation law is often misunderstood, leaving many unmarried couples unaware of their rights.

Put simply, cohabiting couples do not have the same rights as married couples. Because of this, unmarried couples who live together can be at risk without even realising it.

Understanding where you stand legally will help you prevent future problems from arising. The law may be complicated, but we have the expertise and practical experience to advise you. Trust us to protect your finances, agree arrangements for your children or deal with the financial fall-out of a separation.

To find out how we can help you gain peace of mind, get in touch with our team today.

  • Award-winning firm
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  • Offices across England

What is cohabitation?

Cohabitation is when an unmarried couple lives in the same residence. You are cohabiting if you live with someone who you're in a romantic relationship with but are not married to.

Cohabiting couples have fewer rights than married couples or civil partners. There's limited protection if the relationship deteriorates or one partner passes away.


What are my rights when I'm cohabiting?

It's a misconception that there's such a thing as a "common law marriage" and that, after just a few years of living with your partner, you become common law spouses. The truth is that there's no such thing as a common law marriage.

Cohabiting couples aren't treated the same as divorcing couples when they separate. It doesn't matter if you've lived together for decades, run a business together or have children. You still won't have any automatic rights to inherit wealth or property from each other if you separate or one of you passes away.

That's why you should talk to specialist cohabitation lawyers who can help you understand your rights. Contact us to learn more about how we can help you.

How can I protect my rights when cohabiting?

You can protect your rights as a cohabitant with certain written documents. Our expert cohabitation lawyers can help you create legal documents that can reduce some of the uncertainty you may experience if your relationship ends.

Cohabitation agreements

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding agreement for couples living together. This document explains the financial duties of each person in your relationship. You can use it to explicitly state what you intend to do if your relationship ends.

This agreement can be as concise or detailed as you want it to be. For example, it could set out:

  • How much each of you should contribute towards household expenses
  • Who owns expensive items, such as jewellery or vehicles
  • How a jointly owned property should be dealt with if you separate
  • What should happen to assets such as pensions or savings should one of you die

If you're cohabiting or planning on moving in with your partner, a cohabitation agreement could help you avoid uncertainty. Making your financial responsibilities clear in the present will help prevent them from causing disagreements in the future.

Our team of expert UK solicitors can help you prepare a legally binding cohabitation agreement or revisit your existing agreement. We can also help make cohabitation agreements for groups of friends or inter-generational families living together. This will help you get the peace of mind you need.


Declarations of trust

A declaration of trust (sometimes called a deed of trust) is a legally binding document that says who owns a property. It can detail different aspects of ownership, such as the amount of financial interest each person has in the property and how the money should be divided if you sell it. It's there to help protect each person's financial interest. 

Declarations of trust are usually made at the time of buying a property and there's a specific section in the TR1 Form that deals with this. You should expect your conveyancer to discuss this with you.

As a cohabiting couple, drawing up a declaration of trust can help you avoid uncertainty if your relationship breaks down.


When a person dies without leaving a valid will, their property is shared out according to the rules of intestacy. These state that only spouses, civil partners and some other close relatives can inherit the property of the deceased person.

Cohabitants aren't eligible to inherit anything from the estate if there's no will. That's why wills for unmarried couples are so important.


Our cohabitation experience

Our experience is as diverse as the people we help. Here are just a few recent examples of how we help our clients:

  • A soon-to-be-married client who was due to receive a sizeable inheritance needed our help to produce pre-nuptial agreements, wills and trusts. Our family lawyers worked closely with our tax and estate planning lawyers to deliver these for them, implementing effective wealth protection and limiting future issues.
  • Grandparents who wanted to give money to their grandchildren, to enable them to buy their first homes, came to us to help them understand the legal consequences of their support and put in place mechanisms to protect their investment.
  • For other clients, we've successfully pursued and defended claims against family homes and other property, both through the courts and in arbitration.
  • A client who was looking to achieve financial certainty was very happy when we were able to structure an unusual financial arrangement providing life-long housing and financial support for the mother and child. Our ability to develop a creative solution to a novel problem was praised.
  • We've also successfully mediated a variety of agreements between parents where questions over the children had arisen or original arrangements had broken down. This helped them avoid the uncertainty, stress and cost of going through the courts and enabled them to reach a bespoke agreement tailored to their circumstances.

Our clients

Cohabiting couples are the fastest-growing family type in the UK. As a result, we help increasingly diverse clients, including:

  • Blended families
  • Same-sex families
  • Young couples
  • Parents and grandparents providing financial support to their children and grandchildren
  • Couples who are in business together
  • Professional and family trustees

Why choose Mills & Reeve for cohabitation lawyers?

Our specialist family lawyers have a wealth of experience providing support and guidance to cohabiting couples. Here are just a few reasons you should choose us:


Get in touch with a specialist cohabitation lawyer today

If you're ready to speak to a member of our team, don't hesitate to contact us today. In addition, you can sign up for updates from Mills & Reeve.

We'll get to know you and find out how we can best help with the cohabitation challenges you're facing.

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