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Cohabitating couples – legal status

English law gives no legal status to cohabitating couples.  Accordingly they do not have the same legal protection as civil partners or married couples.  This means that on the break-up of a civil partnership or marriage each party has a legal right to claim maintenance and a share of the matrimonial assets, while the court has total discretion to consider and take into account all relevant circumstances and to make an appropriate order.   When couples who cohabit separate they have no such rights.

This means therefore that if you have lived together and not been married or in a civil partnership then it is unlikely any party will have any entitlements with regard to property or finances.  It is often a wise move therefore to enter into a cohabitation agreement with a partner at the outset of buying a property or entering into a business venture in order to clarify and confirm such matters such as the responsibility for outgoing and what both would do in the event of relationship breakdown.