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Freeths - Law firm

Leeds Cohabitation Disputes

Financial security for unmarried couples living together


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Why choose Freeths?

  • Our nationally renowned family lawyers can advise on all issues relating to cohabitation, relationship breakdown and separation;
  • We will always listen to you and tailor our advice to ensure it is appropriate and realistic based on your particular circumstances;
  • Where suitable, we will explore whether a negotiated agreement can be reached without the need to go to court;
  • You can be assured of robust and effective representation if a court application is required;
  • We will deal with your situation sensitively and focus on what is right for you.


Call 0113 246 2906

For further information about our Cohabitation Disputes solicitors, please contact Mark Heppinstall, Solicitor, on the number above or submit a secure enquiry form below.


Our Expertise

When cohabitees separate the rules governing their situation is not the same as for married couples. The law treats cohabiting couples very differently and many people are surprised to hear that there is no such thing as a “common law” husband or wife.

As the marriage rate in England and Wales continues to fall there has been a corresponding rise in the number of cohabiting couples. Nevertheless, in spite of changing social trends there is presently no legal framework that properly recognises the legal rights or needs of cohabitees on relationship breakdown. This has important implications in relation to financial provision on separation and the powers of the court to make financial orders. The court has much broader powers when dealing with married couples on divorce than it does unmarried cohabitees and this creates something of a two tier system.

Unmarried couples living together usually only have an interest in property if it is in joint names. If there is a dispute about joint property its legal ownership is often clear from the ownership deed. It is possible to make a claim against property which is solely owned by someone else but the law in this area is complex and specialist advice will almost always be needed.

Our highly regarded family lawyers are recognised as leading specialists in their field, with extensive experience acting in cohabitation matters. Freeths family law team can assist unmarried couples who live together before, during or at the end of their cohabitation.

Some clients approach us for advice to prepare cohabitation agreements to regulate their living arrangements. Other clients require more pragmatic support to help unpick their financial arrangements on relationship breakdown where we can help to resolve disputes in this context.


What steps can cohabitees take to protect themselves during a relationship or before they live together?

Two really sensible steps that cohabitees should consider include entering into a cohabitation agreement and/or preparing a Declaration of Trust.

Cohabitation agreements

A cohabitation agreement can set out how property, capital or other assets are owned and how you each intend that they will be divided if your relationship breaks down or you stop living together. Such agreements can record each person’s beneficial interest in property, set out how any bills are to be paid, detail intended ownership of the property and so on. You could also use a cohabitation agreement to record how you intend that any liabilities will be paid to include the mortgage, utility bills and so on. If you have children, a cohabitation agreement can record your intentions as to their future care arrangements in the event of separation. We strongly recommend that you consider consulting a solicitor if you are thinking about entering a cohabitation agreement to best ensure it is properly drafted and given appropriate legal weight.

Declarations of Trust

A Declaration of Trust is typically used to record the proportion in which individuals own property and to regulate how any equity would be divided from the proceeds of sale.

How can cohabitees protect themselves if their relationship breaks down?

You should seek legal advice at the earliest opportunity if you are concerned that your relationship may break down to ensure you understand what this might mean legally, financially and practically. We can assist you to try to resolve any dispute without going to court through alternative dispute resolution. If a court application is necessary there are a number of legal remedies available which we can advise you on.

Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act (TOLATA) 1996

Where an application is made under TOLATA the court can be asked to make declaratory or regulatory orders. Where the court makes declaratory orders it will determine each person’s beneficial interest (or share) in property, decide how property should be owned and how it should be divided in the event of a sale. If a regulatory order is made the court will decide whether property should be sold. Such orders might be made immediately or deferred; for example until any children of the family reach a certain age.

Schedule 1 applications under the Children Act 1989

Schedule 1 applications are made where one parent wants to make a claim for financial provision for their children from the other parent. Examples of orders that might be made could include maintenance, lump sums or the provision of property, but this will very much be dependent on each person’s financial circumstances.

Occupation of the Family Home

Commonly overlooked, applications can also be made under the Family Law Act 1996 for Occupation Orders which can permit or restrict rights of occupation in a family home. Ancillary to this the court can also make supplementary orders to regulate how interim payments should be made e.g. for the mortgage or utility bills against the family home.

Remember to make a Will

Bear in mind, if you die without making a Will, under the rules of intestacy your unmarried partner would have no automatic legal right to inherit anything from your estate. This can cause all sorts of problems and risk potentially costly litigation. Therefore, it is generally good practice to consider wider life and estate planning if you are thinking about or are cohabiting.

Call or email our friendly, professional family team today to find out how we can help you.

Mark Heppinstall - Family LawyerFor further information about our Cohabitation Disputes solicitors, please contact Mark Heppinstall, Solicitor, on 0113 246 2906 or submit a secure enquiry form.

Leeds Cohabitation Disputes

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