Personal Law
February 26, 2018

Is being a cohabiting partner the same as being married?

It is a common misconception that living together for a certain amount of time gives you the same rights as being married. In reality, there is a significant difference and a cohabitee can be left without legal entitlement to a share of the property upon separation, to Parental Responsibility of any children, and entitlement to the other’s estate on death.


If you buy property as an unmarried couple, then it is advisable to purchase it jointly, subject to any equal or unequal contributions. In addition the rights of survivorship must be carefully considered. Should a cohabiting couple separate, if the property in which they lived is only in the name of one of the partners, the other will have no automatic right to any share of it.


Mothers automatically have Parental Responsibility for any children they have and cannot lose it, except through adoption. However, an unmarried Father does not have automatic Parental Responsibility for his child. If you are an unmarried Father and do not have Parental Responsibility through jointly registering the birth (after 1 December 2003), the easiest way to obtain Parental Responsibility is to enter a Parental Responsibility Agreement with the Mother. Where the Mother does not agree, an application to the Court can be made.

Inheritance & Intestacy  

Cohabiting couples have no automatic right to each other’s assets upon death. This is why it is even more vital to make Wills if you live together unmarried with your partner. Intestacy rules, which come into effect when somebody dies without making a Will, state that where no Will has been made, assets will be passed to the next of kin, or even the Crown when no family member can be found.

If you are worried or concerned about the financial implications of the breakdown of your relationship, whether you are married or living together, you may wish to have initial advice at an early stage to discuss your position and to enable you to consider the various options available to you.

We offer an initial fixed fee appointment of £75.00 so that you can see where you stand. If you wish to discuss this or any other family matter, please contact Sharon Hawkins on 01732 897925 or

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.

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