More than 5.9 million people in the UK are choosing to live together without marrying making cohabiting families the fastest growing type of household.  More than half of cohabitees still believe they are protected under “common law marriage”.  However, this is a myth and few are aware that they have little or no legal protection if their relationship ends.

Common law marriage

It doesn’t matter whether you have been living together for a few months or many years, there are no laws to dictate how cohabiting couples should divide their assets if they separate and no such thing as “common law marriage”. As a result, relationship breakdown can lead to severe financial and emotional stress and hardship.

In practical terms, if the house shared by a cohabiting couple is in one of their names, the other can be asked to leave and would have no claim on the property. There is also no legal requirement for one party to support the other financially after separation.

How can you protect yourself?

In the absence of a marriage contract, unmarried couples should seriously consider a cohabitation agreement to provide some legal protection in the event of relationship breakdown. All cohabiting couples should seek legal advice about drawing up a Will to set out their wishes should one of them die.

Cohabiting couples who separate should seek legal advice as soon as possible to discuss their options. Ideally, they should talk to a specialist family lawyer in the early stages of their relationship basing their plans on staying together but deciding what arrangements should be made if life doesn’t turn out as they hope. A legal agreement will help them avoid issues in the future if things don’t work out between them.

Here at Harrogate Family Law we are specialist when it comes to family law.  Contact us for advice on cohabitation, separation and living together agreements.

Carol Jessop is the only family lawyer in Harrogate accredited by Resolution as a cohabitation law specialist.

To speak to one of our friendly solicitors for a confidential chat give us a call today on 01423 594680.

Carol Jessop is an experienced family lawyer specialising in finding practical solutions to resolve complex financial arrangements, protecting assets and obtaining emergency orders to provide personal protection or prevent the removal of children.

Carol has over 30 years’ experience in family law and is recognised by her clients and peers as highly knowledgeable and compassionate.

Everyone’s circumstances are different and this article is provided by way of general information only and must not be relied upon.  If you require legal advice on a family law issue, please feel free to contact us by emailing