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Family Law | Cohabiting Couples Rights

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

In 2007, the Law Commission proposed in its Report introducing to improve legal protections for unmarried, cohabiting couples should there be a relationship breakdown or the passing of a partner. However, the Government rejected its suggestion in 2022 for a reform of the cohabitation law.

Cohabiting families are the fastest growing family type in England and Wales. As of last year, there were 3.6 million cohabiting couples, and this number has, in fact, doubled since 1996. Under the current law, there is no legal definition for a cohabitee and cohabiting couple automatically share the same rights as a married couple or a couple in civil partnership. People often say:

“I have lived with my partner for many years and I see us as if we were married.”

Yet, in fact, the legal protections available to cohabitants are far from sufficient.


Many cohabitees have the misperception that they are in a “common law marriage”. This is incorrect, as there is no such thing.


For instance, if your partner owns your home in his/her sole name, you have no right to the ownership in the event of a separation or in the unfortunate event of your partner passing away, you will have no automatic entitlement to a share of his/her assets and estate.


Having no protection in place has put many families in a difficult financial situation, and this is the last thing one needs while going through bereavement.

Religious Marriages


Not all religious marriages may be legally recognised. In fact, they are seen as cohabitating couples and not legally married. Whether or not your marriage is recognised in the eyes of law, it’s not always a straightforward answer. To find out more, feel free to contact us for a preliminary chat.

Can I mitigate this? A cohabitation agreement could be drawn up to ensure that your property and finances are legally protected. It can also include arrangements for your children. This agreement is an enforceable legal document if it is executed properly.


If you wish to discuss this further to protect yourself and your loved ones, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me.




Phoebe Chau

0207 183 6624


The information provided in this article is not intended to constitute legal advice and you should take full and comprehensive legal advice on your individual circumstances from a fully qualified Solicitor before you embark on any course of action.

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