Moving in together? What to think about before cohabiting

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Jennifer Peebles


Phone 01264 325823


Cohabitation is often seen as the quicker, cheaper and all-round easier alternative to marriage or civil partnership. However, there are various differences between the legal status of a married person/civil partner and a cohabitee that should be considered at the outset.

One of these differences is in respect of parental responsibility. A father who is not married to the mother of his child will not (unlike the mother) automatically have parental responsibility for that child. Ensuring that the father’s name is listed on the child’s birth certificate is a way of him acquiring parental responsibility. Alternatively, think about putting in place a parental responsibility agreement.

Another difference is in the treatment of cohabitees on separation. Clients who come to us on the breakdown of their marriage can usually expect a settlement that apportions the ownership of certain assets and property and provision for ongoing maintenance payments, if applicable, or a lump sum payment. A cohabitee cannot assume that any such arrangements would be put in place. There is no legal right to give or receive a share of the things owned by the other.

That can be particularly problematic when it comes to the family home. If the property is not in joint names, the party whose name is on the deeds will continue to own it post-separation. It would be for the other to show his or her entitlement to an interest in the home – most commonly by providing evidence of having contributed towards its purchase or towards renovation work.

A third situation that can take a cohabitee by surprise is that he or she will not automatically inherit if their partner dies without having made a Will. This can cause significant distress as well as financial hardship.

There is a way of a cohabiting couple mitigating the potentially negative effects of not having married or entered into a civil partnership. That is to put in place a cohabitation agreement setting out exactly what you and your partner have agreed in respect of your relationship and what should happen in the event that it breaks down. It may not be the most romantic gesture in the world, but you could find that it’s one of the most beneficial.

For advice on any aspect of cohabitation, separation or Wills, contact one of our specialist solicitors on or 01264 353411. We would be delighted to help you.

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