Valentines Day & The Rights of Cohabiting Couples

With Valentine’s day upon us and romance in the air, many couples will be considering the next stage of their relationship and consider moving in with each other.

Cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK, doubling in 20 years to 3.4 million couples. With many cohabiting couples having children, just how much do you know about your rights in a cohabiting partnership?

Sarah Perkins, Family Law Solicitor at CJCH Solicitors, discusses the differences in the rights between married and unmarried couples. Also, how unmarried couples can protect their assets and their children in the event of a relationship breakdown.

What does “common law marriage” mean and is it legally valid?

Common-law marriage in the UK is a myth. The term refers to unmarried couples who are cohabiting.  Worryingly, many people in the UK believe that “common law marriage” exists and that unmarried couples enjoy the same legal rights as married couples. However, this is not the case.

How do the rights of married and unmarried couples differ?

There are significant differences between the rights of married and unmarried couples. This applies throughout the marriage, death and divorce. For example, if an unmarried partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not inherit anything (unless they jointly own property). Whereas a married partner would automatically inherit under the rules on intestacy.

Additionally, regardless of how long the couple has lived together, an unmarried partner who stayed at home to care for children to the detriment of their earning capacity cannot make claims for property, maintenance or pension.

What is a cohabitation agreement and what are the benefits of unmarried couples having one?

A cohabitation agreement is a written document which sets out the parties’ intentions regarding their assets. If the relationship ends, the agreement provides certainty regarding the division of property. An agreement can include the following:

  • Who is responsible for the payment of rent/mortgage and household bills
  • Ownership of personal belongings
  • Ownership and shares of jointly owned property

A cohabiting agreement works like a contract and provided it is drawn up correctly, will be enforceable.

How can unmarried cohabiting couples make sure their children are protected?

A cohabiting agreement can lay out contact/living arrangements and maintenance for any children from the relationship. Consult a solicitor who will draft an agreement that best protects children in the event of a relationship breakdown

How else can a solicitor advise cohabiting couples on protecting their assets and each other?

If properties are purchased jointly but with unequal contributions & payments to the mortgage & other expenses, the property should be held as Tenants in Common & a Deed of Trust drawn up upon purchase reflecting the arrangement.

Finally, it is vital couples cohabiting have up to date wills. The wills will reflect who should inherit their shared assets and belongings in the event one of the partners passes away

How can we help?

CJCH has extensive experience dealing with family matters in a nurturing and compassionate way. For more information, get in touch with a member of our team today:


Telephone: 0333 231 6405

Supporting Clients Through A Relationship Breakdown

A relationship breakdown is an emotional and worrying time for a family. For a solicitor, it is not only important to understand the legal issues a client faces, but also take the time to understand the client’s wider situation. Sally Perrett, Family & Childcare solicitor at CJCH, discusses how she supports clients experiencing a relationship breakdown.

As a solicitor how do you ease stress for clients throughout a relationship breakdown?

The end of a relationship is an extremely difficult situation. Personal trauma and financial issues can cause stress & there needs to be a focus on protecting children from the impact of the relationship breakdown.

With so many stressful issues, it is important the client receives practical advice that reassures them about the factors to consider. This will hopefully alleviate the pressure felt by the client, knowing their matter is handled sensitively

Why is it important to build trust with clients facing a relationship breakdown?

Often, when a client is facing a breakup, they are emotional, feel let down and very worried about what the future holds. A client needs reassurance and generally someone they can rely on to approach their case with sensitivity and discretion.

Do you find that there’s an element of providing emotional support as well as legal advice when it comes to family law matters?

Of course, there will be an element of emotional support required during such a traumatic time in a person’s life. Often clients find it difficult to separate practical matters from personal issues. Therefore, these need to be dealt with empathetically

What advice would you give to someone facing a relationship breakdown?

We would advise the client to take their time & not make big decisions too quickly under stress. Take a measured approach towards practical matters & the implications of the relationship breakdown.

Importantly, no two cases are the same, one client may want to protect their assets whilst another seeks the most favourable arrangements with respect to their children. It is important clients make measured decisions based on the practical advice they receive

How do you feel your advice brings value to clients during a relationship breakdown?

It is vital that a client feels they can rely on their solicitor for a realistic, sensible approach. The client should feel in ‘safe hands’ at their vulnerable time. Finally, it is imperative solicitor’s advice alleviates pressure the client is facing.

How we can help:

Our team has extensive experience in supporting clients in what can be a difficult and confusing time. The breakdown of a relationship brings with it distressing repercussions and our team is here to help you in a compassionate and nurturing way. Get in touch with a member of our team today.

Telephone: 0333 231 6405


Cohabiting Couples & the Law – Protect Your Rights!

The number of cohabiting couples continues to rise to over 6 million in 2018. This coincides with a decline in marriage rates, which have fallen since their peak in the early 1970s. With this in mind, what does it mean for couples that are choosing to forgo tying the knot?

It is often overlooked that unmarried couples do not enjoy the same rights as married couples. It is therefore important that married couples are aware of this difference so that their rights are protected. Our solicitor in Family Law, Sarah Perkins, discusses the rights of married and unmarried couples and dispels some myths surrounding ‘common law marriage’.

What does ‘common law marriage’ mean when people refer to cohabiting couples? Is it a myth?

Common law marriage in the UK is a myth.  The term refers to couples who choose to live together unmarried.  Worryingly, many people in the UK believe “common law marriage” exists and that unmarried couples enjoy the same legal rights as married couples.  This is not the case.

How do the rights of married and unmarried couples differ?

The rights of married and unmarried couples differ in several ways. For example, when an unmarried partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not inherit anything.  Unless, however, the couple jointly owns property and assets. A married partner would automatically inherit all or some of the estate under the rules of intestacy.

Additionally, cohabiting partners cannot access their partner’s bank account if they die. Whereas married couples may be allowed to withdraw the balance providing the amount is small. Cohabiting partners are not legally considered to be next of kin.

Following separation, an unmarried partner who has stayed at home during the relationship to care for children cannot make any claims in their own right for property, maintenance or pension sharing. It is irrelevant if the decision to care for children was to the detriment of the person’s earning capacity and regardless of how long they lived together.

There is no legal obligation on unmarried couples to support each other financially. Whereas married partners have a legal duty to support each other.

Furthermore, if an unmarried couple lives in rented accommodation and the tenancy is in only one partner’s name, the other has no legal right to stay in and occupy the accommodation.  When married, each partner has the right to live in the matrimonial home.

What legal considerations do you think unmarried parents should be aware of?

An unmarried father does not have automatic parental responsibility for a child. Parental Responsibility is acquired by an unmarried Father when named on the Birth Certificate or an Order of the Court.

If an unmarried parent dies without leaving a will, the other parent will not inherit anything unless it is jointly owned.  If the child is the deceased parents’ next of kin, then the child will inherit all or part of the estate. The estate If the child is a minor, the estate will be held on trust. It is therefore of utmost importance that unmarried parents have up to date wills reflecting their wishes.

Tell us what a cohabitation agreement is and how it could help unmarried couples.

A Cohabitation Agreement is a written document which sets out the parties’ intentions concerning property and other assets. It provides certainty regarding property division in the event of a relationship breakdown.  Agreements can include the following information:

  • who will be responsible for payment of rent or mortgage and various household bills;
  • ownership of personal belongings and furniture;
  • ownership and shares of jointly owned property;
  • detail the living and contact arrangements for children following the breakdown of the relationship.

Provided the agreement is drafted correctly it is legally enforceable.

Are there any other measures cohabiting couples can put in place to protect themselves if they split up or one of them dies?

If properties are purchased jointly but with unequal contributions to the purchase price, unequal contributions to mortgage payments and other expenses related to the property, the property should be held as Tenants in Common and a Deed of Trust drawn up upon purchase reflecting the arrangement.

Cohabiting couples should ensure that they have up to date Wills reflecting ho should inherit their assets and belongings in the event of death.

How can we help:

Get in touch with an experienced member of our team today. Contact us via:

Telephone: 0333 231 6405


Misconceptions we hear about Divorce

Much like politics, the topic of divorce is often widely discussed but not always fully understood. As specialists in family law, the CJCH team of expert solicitors are often faced with the many myths and misconceptions surrounding matters of relationship breakdown and divorce. Jodi Winter (Family Law Partner) and Sarah Perkins (Family Law Solicitor) address some of the common issues raised by new clients, who might have benefited from seeking assistance sooner, if they had the correct information.

Jodi Winter: People sometimes assume that what they see on TV or in the news is how things actually work. It is important to note that media representations are often dramatised. For example, there is no such thing as a “quickie” separation or divorce. In non-contentious divorces, the judge’s ruling and the Court process might be concluded quickly, but there is a requirement for specific criteria and processes to be satisfied and completed before it gets to that point. On the other hand, some people assume a divorce will take years and be ridiculously expensive so are put off starting the process. A divorce could be processed in as little as 4 months, but it will often take far longer to negotiate, agree and conclude the financial settlements. You need to consider a divorce from two perspectives, the first being the legal attachment to one another, and the second being the financial attachment.


Sarah Perkins: Aside from the timeline, there are other questions raised which can be misunderstood. Who gets the house? Who gets the kids? What if my spouse won’t agree to a divorce? Can’t we just list irreconcilable difference as our reason? The short answer to these questions are that they are case specific. The best way to ensure you have the correct information is to seek advice at the earliest opportunity and give your solicitor all the information they need.  You will then receive expert advice on your own particular circumstances.  The notion of irreconcilable differences (i.e. no-fault) is not currently a part of the law in England and Wales. You would need to show that your relationships have irretrievably broken down, with specific facts of proving such.


Jodi Winter: The financial aspects of the matter are what often take the most time to negotiate, which is often why it is best to get advice on a pre-nuptial agreement before you get married. Again, pre-nuptial agreements can be misconstrued but they provide a fair and considered starting point which is often upheld by the court if constructed properly. The same goes for agreeing child contact once the divorce is underway. Address the matter as early as possible and come to an agreement that you are both happy with, otherwise the court will decide for you.

The CJCH Solicitors Family Law team specialise in supporting and navigating the difficult situations that arise at the end of a relationship. You’re not alone, Jodi and Sarah are here for you. For more information and contact, please see here.