There is no legal definition of cohabitation. However, cohabitation is generally accepted to mean an arrangement where two people in a relationship, who are not married, live together on a long-term or permanent basis.
There is a widely held misconception that the concept of 'common law husband and wife' exists in England and Wales and cohabiting couples have the same rights as married couples. However, this is not the case. There are no laws which specifically provide protection or financial remedies for couples who cohabit but choose not to marry. The only way to regulate your financial position is to enter into a cohabitation agreement. Please see our section on such agreements for more information.
If you separate from a partner who you live with (know as your cohabitee) you could potentially have the following claims against them:
Disputes about your family home
If you jointly own a property with your former cohabitee, there is normally a presumption that the property is owned in equal shares, unless there is documentation which confirms that it was intended that the property would be held otherwise. However, there are potential arguments which could be made in relation to the contributions that one person has made to the property.
If the property is owned by you alone, there could be a number of potential legal arguments that your former cohabitee could make to try to establish a legal interest in your property. This is a complex area of law and you should obtain legal advice from a Family Law Solicitor if this issue arrives. Our Family Law team here at Gateley can assist you.
Advice should also be taken if you or your former cohabitee are Scottish or have a connection with Scotland. This is because the law in Scotland changed in 2006 and now gives financial rights to former cohabitees. As a result, it may be possible to bring a claim against your former cohabitee in Scotland, even if a claim could not be brought in England or Wales. For more information on this please see the Scottish family law section of our website or contact the Gateley Family Law team in Scotland.