A recent landmark victory in the Supreme Court has seen an un-married woman win a share of her former partner’s pension. This is likely to add impetus to the drive for greater rights for unmarried couples. But, in the meantime, cohabitees should face up and formalise arrangements, rather than keeping their fingers crossed.


Such difficulties play out all too often for cohabiting couples, whether in relation to shared property or what happens to their assets when they separate or die. Many still believe in the idea of so-called ‘common law marriage’, assuming they have legal rights like married couples or civil partners on death, only to discover the harsh truth when problems arise.


It may seem unfair, but cohabiting couples do not have the protection that comes with marriage or civil partnership. Currently, the onus is on the couple to take action if they wish to protect both parties in case of death, separation or other life changes.


There are three main areas where couples should look to protect themselves, and each other, and that’s with a cohabitation agreement, formalising how property is owned and each making a will. These all help to avoid uncertainty if the worst happens.


A cohabitation agreement is a formal arrangement setting out what will happen if a couple separate. This can also set out day-to-day matters, such as who is responsible for household expenditure and in what proportions. It should be drawn as a deed, independently witnessed and with both parties able to demonstrate there was no duress and each was able to seek independent advice, if required.

For further information on cohabitation, separation or other family matters, please contact our Family Team on 01256 844888 or email julia.mcguigan@lambbrooks.com

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.