Living together continues to grow in popularity, with an increasing number of couples opting to cohabit without getting married or becoming civil partners. 

Such is the extent of the trend that at the start of this year, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) estimated that the proportion of people aged 16 or over in England and Wales who are married or in a civil partnership has fallen below 50% for the first time. 

The ONS published its annual population estimates by marital status and living arrangements in the two nations for 2021–2022 in January 2024. 

The report showed that, although married or civil partnered remained the most common legal partnership status among adults in England and Wales, this proportion has decreased from 51.2% in 2012 to 49.7% in 2021 and 49.4% in 2022, the first time this has fallen below 50%. 

The figures have strengthened calls for more legal rights for cohabiting couples. Currently, unmarried couples who choose to live together are not afforded the same rights under the law as those who marry or become civil partners. 

In this blog, our Family law solicitors consider what legal rights cohabiting couples have and what they can do to protect themselves, their partners and their loved ones. 

The Myth of Common Law Marriage 

There is a common myth regarding ‘common law marriage’, and many people believe that cohabiting partners have the same legal rights as their married counterparts. 

This is not the case. In most branches of the law, there is no such thing as ‘common-law partners’.  

Generally speaking, unmarried cohabiting couples do not have the same rights and protections under the law as couples who are married or in a civil partnership, regardless of how long they have been in a relationship or if they have children together. 

If they decide to separate, unmarried couples have no financial responsibility towards one another, and there are no guarantees about what happens to their property, money, children, and other assets if the relationship breaks down. 

Conversations about ‘who gets what’ can be very stressful. Even in the most amicable of break-ups, couples can struggle to reach agreement about financial arrangements and who will remain in the family home. 

Solicitor for Cohabiting Couples 

There are certain steps cohabiting couples can take and legal documents they can put in place to safeguard themselves should their relationship break down. 

Even if a relationship is thriving, it is nevertheless still sensible to take certain steps to protect the future in the event that anything unforeseen should occur. 

If you are thinking of moving in with a partner or you are already living together and wish to shore up your relationship legally, specialist advice from an experienced Family Law solicitor is a wise step to consider. 

At Beverley Morris & Co., we have provided legal advice for cohabiting couples throughout London and the South East for many years.  

Whilst speaking to a solicitor can sometimes feel unnecessary, especially when things are going well, nevertheless putting in place appropriate legal protection can provide valuable peace of mind should you ever need to fall back on it in the future. 

To speak to one of our experienced team today, please call 020 8852 4433 or email 

Legal Documents for Unmarried Couples 

Unmarried cohabiting couples should consider entering into the following legal documents: 

1. Cohabitation agreement. 

A cohabitation agreement is a form of legal agreement between a couple who live together, that typically sets out how assets, property, and other financial obligations will be dealt with if the relationship comes to an end. 

Cohabitation agreements are bespoke and are tailored to a couple’s particular needs and circumstances. However, in general they can cover arrangements such as: 

  • Property. A cohabitation agreement can specify what happens to any jointly owned property in the event that you split up. It can include provision for any property or properties one party may own already. For example, if one cohabitee owns an existing property, you might decide that the other partner should not have a claim over it if you split up.  
  • Finances. Various financial arrangements can be covered in a cohabitation agreement, such as what percentage of the mortgage you will each pay and who will contribute what amount towards household bills. If one of you puts in a larger deposit to buy your home, a cohabitation agreement can also include a clause stating that that person gets back a larger share if you sell. A cohabitation agreement can also include details about pensions, bank accounts and any expected inheritances. 
  • Other assets, for example, cars and jewellery. 

A cohabitation agreement will be upheld by the courts, as long as it has been made and executed properly and fairly, meaning specialist legal advice is vital. 

2. Wills. 

Everyone needs a Will as it is the only way of ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes. 

However, a Will is especially valuable for unmarried couples as without one, your partner will not automatically be entitled to anything from your estate. 

If you die without a Will, your estate is divided according to the laws of intestacy. These are rules laid down by the Government specifying what happens to the assets of a person who has died without leaving a will. Importantly, these rules do not provide for a partner who was unmarried and not in a civil partnership to inherit. 

The only way of ensuring that your partner is provided for is by making a Will.   

3. Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPAs). 

A Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) gives one or more people legal authority to make decisions on your behalf should you lose capacity to make certain decisions for yourself.   

There are two main types of LPA: 

  • Property and financial affairs. This gives your appointed representative (known as your attorney) the power to make decisions involving your property and finances, including managing your bank account, paying household bills or selling your home.  
  • Health and welfare. This enables your attorney to make decisions about your health and welfare, such as your medical care.  

Mental or physical incapacity can hit at any time, such as through an accident or an illness. 

Appointing your partner to act as your attorney means that they will be able to handle your affairs if you lack the mental capacity to do this yourself. Without an LPA in place, your loved ones would have to apply to the Court of Protection to be able to act on your behalf, which would be a long and costly process.  

Family Law Solicitors Blackheath 

Beverley Morris & Co. are experienced, competent Family Law solicitors in Blackheath Village, South East London.  

If you wish to write a cohabitation agreement, a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement, a Will or an LPA please get in touch with us today.  

You can call us on 020 8852 4433 or email 

Alternatively, click here to arrange a call back.