Cohabitation Agreements & Advice


Cohabitation is becoming the fastest growing family type. However, even if you have been cohabiting for a number of years, this does not afford you any legal protection with regards to financial or property matters if the relationship breaks down.

Cohabitation Breakdown

Unlike married couples, the law does not provide the same level of protection for cohabitants. Even if parties have lived together for a number of years there is no recognition of a “common law” marriage. As such, claims are limited to property law claims and certain claims for children.


Often issues can arise with regards to the interest, or extent of an interest, in the property which the parties have used as their home.

When considering how to deal with a property following the breakdown of a relationship, the first step is to determine the ownership of the property and whether this is held as joint tenants, tenants in common or by one party only. This is usually recorded at the Land Registry, by a Declaration of Trust or in a Cohabitation Agreement.

However, there are various ways that make it possible to obtain a beneficial interest in a property even if you are not the legal owner. For instance, if you have paid towards the upkeep of the house, contributed to the mortgage or assisted with home improvements on the understanding that you would acquire an interest in a property, then it is possible to claim a beneficial interest.


As well as claiming Child Maintenance, claims can be brought under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989. The legislation permits both married and unmarried parents to obtain financial provision for their children following the breakdown of a relationship. This can be in addition to Child Maintenance which is calculated by the Child Maintenance Service.

Before making an order, there will be consideration of a number of factors including the income and financial resources of the parents together with the financial needs of the child.

The Court have the power to make a number of orders, these include:

  • Property adjustment orders- Whilst the child is dependent, the Court has the power to make an order requiring a settlement or transfer of property to be made for the benefit of a child. As such, in some circumstances, a party can remain in the family home, or a new property, until the child is independent.
  • A lump sum order- The Court can award a lump sum in favour of the child to meet capital expenses such as furnishing and equipping a home, nursery costs or for the resident parent to purchase a suitable car.
  • Periodical payments- These are regular payments made for the benefit of the child to cover, for instance, education or vocational training.

Cohabitation Agreements

If you are thinking of cohabiting, or are already in a relationship, a cohabitation agreement can provide you with protection, by recording what should happen should the relationship come to an end.

The family team are ranked in both Chambers & Partners and the Legal 500:

Compact and experienced team which regularly acts for high net worth individuals across the South West, including cases with international elements. Highly thought of for its work on financial remedy matters together with related tax and pension issues. Also handles private law children matters, including child and parental alienation cases, and offers advice on cohabitation disputes.
Chambers & Partners 2020

Rebecca Silcock heads the practice and has experience in the legal ramifications of divorce and relationship breakdown on financial matters ranging from family trusts and inherited wealth to commercial ventures and family businesses.
Legal 500 2020

Next steps

If you require cohabitation advice, please get in touch with our family team for a no obligations conversation, or alternatively make an appointment to meet with a member of our team. You can speak to us on 0800 533 5349 or reach us on email at

Cohabitation Breakdown frequently asked questions

The starting point will be to look at the ownership position. However, claims can be made under Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 if you can show that you have acquired an interest in the property.

The Court does not have the power to make these orders. However, more flexible arrangements can be reached through negotiations.

Additionally, if there are children involved then claims can be made through the Child Maintenance Service and there is the potential to claim for capital to purchase a property whilst the children are minors.

If your relationship has broken down, it is important to take early legal advice to understand and protect your position.

Cohabitation Agreements frequently asked questions

A bespoke agreement for couples who are not married but live together – the agreement offers the parties protection, by recording what should happen should their relationship come to an end.

Whilst the arrangements are not strictly binding, they do provide a clear written indication of what should happen in the event that the relationship breaks down meaning it is less likely that a Court application would need to be made.

The agreements can cover a variety of issues and can be bespoke to your particular needs. The agreement can deal with the following:

  • The family home- The family home can be one of the most valuable assets for a family and the agreement can cover the contributions made, who will pay the mortgage and bills, if improvements are made will there be a change in how you own the property. 
  • Financial support post-separation- This can include maintenance payments for children and/or the other partner.
  • Bank accounts and liabilities- There can be consideration of how these should be divided in the event of a separation.
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Meet the team

Rebecca Silcock
Rebecca Silcock
Partner and Head of Department
Victoria Cobham (née Strode)
Victoria Cobham (née Strode)
Associate Solicitor
Simon Walker
Simon Walker
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Elizabeth Dowler
Elizabeth Dowler
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Laura Somoza
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