Cohabiting couples’ legal rights in the UK More than 3 million couples in the UK choose to cohabit, rather than marry or enter a civil partnership. If you are cohabiting, you do not have the same rights as a married couple; and contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a ‘common-law marriage’.
Rights for cohabiting couples – England & Wales
If you live together, rather than marrying or entering a civil partnership, you have:
- No automatic rights to your partner’s property on their death.
- No automatic entitlement to inherit their estate, even if you have children together, unless there is a will in place.
- No tax reliefs and exemptions that spouses and civil partners enjoy, including pensions.
There is some help under the law in England & Wales, but restricted:
- Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989 provides financial provision for cohabitants’ children under 18.
- If you jointly own a property registered at the Land Registry you are entitled to your share. However, if your partner is reluctant to sell the property, you may be obliged to obtain a court order to sell it.
- It may be possible to establish a claim if one partner has contributed significant amounts towards the home, such as towards the mortgage or renovations.
- If one partner can prove that they were financially dependent on the other during their relationship, it may be possible to make a claim under the Provision for Family and Dependants Act 1975.
What you can do to improve your legal position:
- Draw up a legal cohabitation agreement to determine how much each partner pays towards the rent, mortgage, utilities and child maintenance, both during the relationship, and if the relationship comes to an end.
- Make a will, and keep it up to date if your circumstances change.