Breaking up and your finances when you divorce or separate Breaking up and your finances when you divorce or separate Breaking up and your finances when you divorce or separate

Cohabitation and Relationship breakdown

Contrary to common belief, where an unmarried couple live together as man and wife or civil partners, there is no such thing as “a common law husband or wife”. English law does not recognise cohabitation as a legal status, although in practice cohabiting couples face similar problems on their relationship breakdown as married couples, including disputes and disagreements relating to their children.

Cohabiting couples who buy a property together should take legal advice and steps to secure their respective shares. Otherwise they could end up incurring substantial legal costs as calculating those shares usually involves complex legal argument.

There is no one single statute which deals with cohabitants and no matter how long the relationship has lasted, the law still treats them as separate individuals if the relationship ends and they have no rights to their partner's property or to maintenance. Effectively, what each cohabitant owns will remain theirs respectively and what is jointly-owned will need to be divided. The law relating to the latter is rather complicated and we can provide expert advice on this.

Before you set up home with a partner it is worth considering, and we can advise you and assist in preparing a Cohabitation Agreement to clarify financial and property issues in the event of a split in future. This could avoid messy and expensive court proceedings at a later date and it is easier to reach such an agreement whilst you and your partner are on good terms. Given that in current times couples tend to co-habit later in life, once they have accumulated personal wealth and assets and may have children from previous relationships, it is all the more important to consider protecting oneself financially in the event that a relationship breaks down.

We can also advise on children’s issues which may arise when a relationship breaks down and on obtaining court relief where necessary, such as financial provision for children.

To discuss your case further please contact Shobha Naik on 020 7700 0265 or email her at

 (updated 12.05.23)


You may also find the following pages helpful:

Family Law - Advice at Percy Short & Cuthbert
Children - Contact and residence orders for children in divorce proceedings and relationship breakdown

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