Cohabitation and Cohabitation Agreements

There is a general belief that persons living together are part of a common law marriage and regarded as common law ‘husband and wife’, this term does not exist in law.  It is important to understand that cohabitants, no matter how long they have been living as husband or wife are not afforded the same rights upon the breakdown of the relationship as those which arise on divorce.  The law does not recognise ‘common law spouses’.

Living together rather than marrying can be a financial disaster for a dependant cohabitee in the event of a relationship breaking down.  There is no maintenance and no automatic entitlement to make property, capital or pension claims.

There is no law at present specifically to deal with cohabitation breakdown notwithstanding the thousands of couples who have chosen not to marry or in the case of same sex couples, enter into a civil partnership.

Trust and land law is applied in the event of any property disputes.

It is essential that ownership of real property is agreed before the purchase takes place, and is reflected in an appropriate declaration of trust.  Further, if it is intended for both parties to benefit financially from the cohabitation should it break down, than it is vital that an agreement is drafted to reflect this.

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