Cohabitants and Unmarried Families

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The impact of separation on the ownership of property and other assets is a complex area of law. Our family lawyers, working with colleagues in our property litigation team, are highly experienced in providing clear and straightforward advice in relation to property disputes between unmarried couples, including potential claims you or your partner may have.

Many unmarried couples own the property in which they live jointly and some decide to renovate second properties as a joint venture. Separating can make many couples uncertain of their rights and potential interests in property.  Both financial and non-financial contributions to a relationship and a property can be relevant.  Amidst the emotions of a relationship breakdown, it is vital that you have a clear understanding of the law and the options available to you.

There are many myths regarding an unmarried partner’s rights on separation. Contrary to popular belief, there is no such thing as a ‘common law’ marriage. The law does not currently allow unmarried partners on separation to make financial claims in the same way as a married partner can.  The only rights which cohabitants have relate to ownership of property (decided with reference to property and trust law) and financial claims on behalf of any children of the family (including maintenance claims). 

We will meet you and discuss your concerns and your goals, to advise you on all of the options available to you.  Our lawyers are experienced negotiators, but they will equally support you through contested court proceedings when litigation is necessary.

This area of law often requires consideration of trusts and property law and can involve detailed evidence relating to financing, common intentions and the relationship history. It is important to set out a clear strategy from the outset, to insure your best interests are represented.  We work collaboratively with our colleagues in both the real estate and private client teams to decide the best strategy to pursue for your case having carefully considered the facts.

Recent examples of work

  • Advising a woman after a 20 year relationship in relation to the ownership of the family home and negotiating on her behalf a fair share of the proceeds even though the home had not been in her sole name.
  • Advising a man and assisting him in securing 50% of the sale proceeds of the family home where his former partner was defending his claim.
  • Representing a mother with two teenage children in securing (on an emergency basis) her interest in the substantial family home which was held in the name of an offshore trust.


"It's a team that has a great breadth of experience across the board and particularly in international cases."

Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession

"I always think of them as having a Rolls-Royce service but they are particularly good when there's a European element to the case."

Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession

"Very strong litigation practice, with some of the best up-and-coming stars of tomorrow"

Legal 500 UK

"A standout firm"

Legal 500 UK

"Professional yet sympathetic manner and the team always fights hard to defend your interests"

Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession


If you require further information or advice from our team of specialist family lawyers, please contact a member of our team or call us on +44 (0)20 7814 1200.

"They made a very difficult time much easier to deal with. Their professionalism kept me sane and focused on the outcome I needed"


"All have been excellent and have shown great diligence and practicality, along with sensitivity during a very difficult time in my life"


"Rolls-Royce service and particularly good when there's a European element to the case"

Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession

"A standout firm"

Legal 500 UK

"Professional yet sympathetic manner and the team always fights hard to defend your interests"

Chambers UK, A Client's Guide to the UK Legal Profession

Cohabitants and Unmarried Families Insights

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Options in the English courts for ‘illegitimate’ children living in the UAE

Rights of cohabitants - setting the record straight

Everyone should be free to choose between marriage or civil partnership

The presumption of parental involvement and the changing attitudes to children’s care

Unmarried parents’ financial obligations on separation - spot the difference

Blended families - laying down the law

Facing an allegation of domestic abuse on relationship breakdown

The voice of the child in family courts

Same-sex marriage - conversions and cross-border hazards

Protecting children's wealth on divorce and remarriage

Unmarried couples saying Yes to No-Nups

The New Year brings welcome changes for same sex couples – but mind the gaps

Madrid - London - Edinburgh: short-haul distances but a world apart when relationships break down

Preparing for the best outcome in child relocation cases

Addressing the challenges of overseas surrogacy

Not yet happily ever after: legalisation of gay marriage is just the beginning

Three-way parenting’s impact on parenthood, parentage and parental responsibility

Fathers' rights in groundbreaking '3 parent family' case

2011 and still no law for cohabitants

No such thing as a common law

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Chambers UK
WealthBriefing Awards
Legal 500 UK
Citywealth Leaderslist
Legal 500 UK

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+44 (0)20 7814 1200

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