Cohabitation Agreements & Cohabitation Rights

When a marriage breaks down, married couples can seek financial provision from each other by way of maintenance, a lump sum, a property transfer or pension provision. Unless there are children involved or they have entered into a civil partnership, cohabiting partners cannot seek such provision if their relationship breaks down.

At SMR Solicitors, we offer clear, practical advice for cohabiting couples on their rights and dealing with separation, as well as the steps they can take to protect themselves in advance. We will be pleased to discuss anything that is unclear or answer any questions you may have. 

We have a broad client base in West Sussex advising on all aspects of cohabitation including:

  • Cohabitation agreements
  • Separation for unmarried couples
  • Cohabitation property rights
  • Child law for unmarried parents

We offer a 1-hour fixed fee consultation followed up with a detailed attendance note covering the issues discussed and our bespoke advice on your options. This can be over the phone, via email or through videoconferencing where suitable, as well as face-to-face.

We offer flexible funding arrangements including fixed fees where appropriate.

Have a question about cohabitation agreements and cohabitation rights? Check our ‘cohabitation rights explained’ section for the answers or ask us a question.

Speak to our cohabitation solicitors in West Sussex

To discuss your requirements and find out how we can help, please get in touch to speak to one of our expert cohabitation lawyers.


Our cohabitation family law services

Cohabitation agreements

If you intend to cohabit or are already cohabiting, we recommend that you consider asking your solicitor to help you prepare a Cohabitation Agreement (also known as a “living together agreement”).

A well-drafted cohabitation agreement can set out how you intend to manage the financial aspects of your relationship and may avoid a great deal of uncertainty, and even litigation, should the relationship unfortunately break down.

Our cohabitation agreements solicitors can assist with matters including:

  • Negotiating the terms of cohabitation agreements
  • Drafting cohabitation agreements
  • Reviewing cohabitation agreements
  • Updating cohabitation agreements
  • The application of cohabitation agreements during separation

Separation for unmarried couples

Separation can be particularly complicated and confusing for unmarried couples as you do not have the same legal protections as a couple who are married or in a civil partnership. You will have no rights with regard to each other’s property or other assets, unless you have a cohabitation agreement that covers this.

Our cohabitation solicitors can help with the various matters that arise during a separation, including in relation to:

  • Ownership of property held during the relationship
  • Financial provision for children of the relationship

Cohabitation property rights

The law surrounding property ownership is complex and largely based upon trust law principles. If you intend to cohabit, you should consider how you will own your property before you move in together and seek advice from a solicitor before purchasing any property.

Our cohabitation solicitors can advise on options including:

  • Whether to own the property as joint tenants or tenants in common
  • Declarations of Trust
  • Using a cohabitation agreement to clarify property rights

Child law for unmarried parents

In many cases, being unmarried will not affect your parental rights and responsibilities. However, there are circumstances where this could be an issue, in particular if you do not have legal ‘parental responsibility’ for your child.

Even in straightforward situations, you will still need to agree child arrangements that match your children’s best interests while protecting your rights as a parent. Having expert legal advice can make it much easier to achieve a fair agreement without the need for contentious court proceedings.

Our team can advise on matters including:

  • Whether you have parental responsibility
  • Securing parental responsibility by voluntary agreement or with a Parental Responsibility Order
  • Cohabitation and child support

Learn more about how we can help with child law.

Our cohabitation solicitors’ fees

We want our cohabitation family law pricing to be fair and transparent, so will give a realistic estimate of costs at the outset, including our fees and all third-party costs, such as court fees.

We offer fixed fees for some matters, such as preparing a straightforward cohabitation agreement. This means we agree a price in advance that will not change unless your requirements change.

For more complex matters, we will agree an hourly rate based on the level of expertise required.

We will be happy to discuss our fees with you, so please get in touch to learn more.

Cohabitation rights explained

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document created on behalf of an unmarried couple who live together or are planning to live together. It allows them to agree in advance how issues will be dealt with, such as splitting living costs and what would happen to their shared home and other assets in the event of a separation.

What should you include in a cohabitation agreement?

This will depend on your requirements, but common things to include are:

  • How your rent/mortgage and other livings costs will be divided
  • What would happen to your family home, savings, investments and other assets if you were to separate
  • Who any children you have you would live with in the event of a separation

Are cohabitation agreements legally binding?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal contract entered into by the couple who requested it. They will generally be taken into consideration by a Court if they are well-drafted and considered fair to both parties.

What is the current law on cohabitation?

Under current English law, a cohabiting couple have no automatic legal right to each other’s property or assets in the event of separation, no matter how long they have been living together. This is why making a cohabitation agreement is a sensible precaution.

What are my common law marriage rights when separating?

The idea of ‘common law marriage’ is a myth, with no basis in English law. This means that, as stated above, an unmarried couple have no automatic legal right to each other’s property or assets if they split up.

It does not matter how long you have been living together or if you have children together, unless you have a cohabitation agreement, you will not be entitled to any share of any assets in your partner’s name.

Speak to our cohabitation solicitors in West Sussex

To discuss your requirements and find out how we can help, please get in touch to speak to one of our expert cohabitation lawyers in Chichester, East Wittering, Selsey or Bognor Regis.