There is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’. Couples who live together rather than marrying or entering into a Civil Partnership may be surprised to know that they have very different legal rights to divorcing couples if the relationship breaks down even if you have been together for years.

This can leave one of you at a real disadvantage. You may not be entitled to a share of the family home or to continue living there.

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

Our family team specialises in advising on all aspects of cohabitation breakdown.

The most common issues relate to property and financial provision for children. Our aim is to help you find ways to separate as amicably as possible whilst keeping the interests of any children as a primary focus.

Need advice?

If you are considering separation or divorce and you would like to talk about your options call us on:

020 7607 5768


Property and cohabiting couples

The strict laws of property and trusts apply and much will depend on how the property is owned and what was intended when it was acquired. Sometimes, if a common intention to hold an interest in property has not been expressed, it is still possible to establish an interest in the property by proving a significant financial contribution towards it such as contribution to the purchase price or assuming responsibility for mortgage payments.


Children and cohabiting parents

It is possible for a parent to apply for financial provision against the other parent for the benefit of their children.
For example, a transfer or settlement of property might be ordered for the benefit of the children. Or a lump sum order may be made and the funds put in trust to be used to finance the purchase of a new property. It is important to stress that any provision intended to satisfy the children’s housing needs will come to an end once the children grow up and the property will usually have to be sold and the funds held in trust repaid.
If a lump sum is ordered for another purpose e.g. to help to pay off debts or to reimburse specific costs, eg a car, computer or furniture, it would not be repayable.

In cases where the non-resident parent is wealthy, a carer’s allowance might be paid to the resident parent.
In most cases, the courts no longer have power to make orders for child maintenance; an application to the Child Maintenance Service has to be made for child maintenance to be assessed. See our fact sheet concerning Child Maintenance.

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

It is very important 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.
If you own or believe you have a joint interest in a property and are thinking of separating you should seek early legal advice from a Family lawyer.

If you are considering separation or divorce and you would like to talk about your options call us on

020 7607 5768

Our offices are located at:
398, Caledonian Road London N1 1DN

We are close to Kings Cross/St. Pancras Mainline Stations, Caledonian Road & Barnsbury Overground and Caledonian Road Underground.