Cohabitation: How the Law treats living Partners

What is unmarried cohabitation? 

There is no legal definition of what cohabitation actually means. It has been called a function-based relationship in comparison to a relationship based on love and family.

Cohabitation has been given a wide, varied definition in case law, a very broad outline on what the courts have said to be included in the concept of cohabitation includes relationships were:

  • A Couple live together as husband and wife without being married or civil partners
  • Members of the same household
  • A relationship were a couple shares expenses
  • Sexual relationships
  • Relationships publicly known
  • Relationships were children have been conceived

The relationship which is everyday recognised as a cohabiting relationship is that of a couple living together as if they were husband and wife without the legal documentation of a marriage.

The Legal Consequences of Marriage, Civil Partnerships, and Unmarried Couples

Financial Support

  • Once a couple are married they share a mutual duty to provide for one and other with financial support. 
  • This mutual duty of financial support has now extended to cover civil partners since the introduction of the Civil Partnership Act 2004
  • Cohabiting Partners have no mutual duty to provide for each other  with financial support, either during their relationship or if the relationship ever breaks down.

Property Rights

Occupation of a Property

  • Under the Family Law Act 1996, S30 explains how spouses and civil partners have ‘home rights’ which automatically arise, without the need for either partner to apply.
  • Home rights will give both partners, whether to a marriage or civil partnership, the right to not be evicted from the family home after separation or during the relationship, even where only one partner legal owns the home.
  • The rights can be exercisable against a third person if the property concerned is registered with HM registry, and the interest in the property is registered as either a land charge or with a notice on the Land register. 
  • Cohabiting partners may apply for an ‘occupation order’ under the Family Law Act 1996,   to gain the rights equivalent to matrimonial home rights. However, this is not an automatic right. 

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For more information on:

  • Ownership of a property
  • Inheritance and succession
  • Children