Contrary to popular belief there is no such thing as common law marriage. People who choose to live together rather than marry do not have the same rights and duties to each other and to third parties that married couples and Civil Partners do.

Unmarried couples who separate cannot claim maintenance or lump sums from each other and cannot claim against the others pension funds. Unmarried fathers may not have parental responsibility for their children. Unmarried couples do not automatically inherit anything from their partner on death where there is no will even if they have been together a long time.

We advise that couples should consider entering into a Cohabitation Agreement. This can set out financial arrangements present and future, living arrangements and arrangements for children whilst the relationship lasts and on separation. We have years of experience in drafting such detailed documents so contact us for further information.


We also advise that unmarried couples should make wills so they can specify exactly what is to happen on death and who is to inherit what. Again please contact us for further information.

Disputes about houses are common when unmarried couples separate particularly if the home is in one party’s name and the other has contributed by paying the mortgage or for other household expenses or has improved/renovated the property. The Court has to try and work out what the intentions of the couple were and not necessarily what's fair (unlike on divorce) and this can be complex and time consuming.

To avoid such disputes couples should consider how a property is to be owned when it is purchased and what is to happen on separation. A jointly owned property does not have to be owned 50:50. Our conveyancing department can assist you in preparing a trust deed which can set out these details.