We can help you make sense of your finances after a relationship breakdown whether you are married, in a civil partnership or cohabiting with your partner.

The Unmarried Family. Cohabitation rights and laws if you cohabit with your partner:

The number of couples living together has steadily increased over recent decades and nearly 50% of births are now outside marriage.

Many couples who live together without having gone through the formal legal procedures for marriage would be surprised to learn that there is no such thing in law as a “common law marriage” and that they do not enjoy the same rights as married couples when they separate.

How we can help you –

Cohabitation Agreements – even if your relationship is not in trouble, you may wish to consider a cohabitation agreement. These are usually entered into by couples who have decided not to marry or enter into a civil partnership but have decided to live together. A cohabitation agreement would record your preferred arrangements while you live together, as a couple or otherwise. It records each party’s rights and responsibilities in relation to the property where they live or intend to live together, the financial arrangements between them, both during and after cohabitation and the arrangements to be made if they decide that they no longer want to live together.

If you and your partner have decided to combine your financial resources and purchase a property to live in together then you should consider a cohabitation agreement. Your property might be owned solely by one of you, or owned by both of you in equal or unequal shares or it could be rented. Your cohabitation agreement can be drafted before or after you begin living together.

So if you are about to buy and jointly own a property with your partner, a cohabitation agreement might help you to avoid the cost of court proceedings about the size of your respective interests in your home if your cohabitation comes to an end.

Cohabiting Couples may seek to divide the assets of the relationship and we can help you with the financial issues arising when you separate.

Separation Agreements can provide for maintenance, division of the family property and care of the children and will usually set out the agreed financial arrangements following separation. Agreements about access and custody of your children can also be recorded. Your separation agreement will not need to be approved by the Court.

Mediation is also available and attendance will normally be required before any application to the court, unless deemed unsuitable by a mediator.

Court Applications if you are unable to negotiate a settlement then you may apply to the court to determine the outcome of your property dispute.

The money advice service has a section on its website devoted to financial information for separating couples. It includes a calculator to help you when looking at any proposed financial arrangements and reviewing your monthly income requirements. For more information, please follow this link.


The same legal avenues exist for cohabiting couples in relation to children as married couples, although unmarried fathers might not have “Parental Responsibility”. This is defined as “all the rights, duties, powers, responsibilities and authority which by law a parent of a child has in relation to the child and his property”. If you are an unmarried father and your name is not on your child’s birth certificate you will not have parental responsibility for your children. This means that you will not have legal responsibilities or rights for your children although you will need to ensure that your child is supported financially.

Unmarried parents can make the same applications to the court in relation to their children as married parents. Unmarried fathers can also make an application for a parental responsibility order.

Call us for a fixed fee meeting

01403 788455

or for a free initial enquiry

Need Cohabitation advice?

Sussex Family Solicitors

Authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority under SRA number 564643