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What is a Common Law Partner?

In the UK, the term “Common Law Partner” is often used to refer to those who are living together as a couple but aren’t married or in a civil partnership. While it’s still a phrase that’s commonly used, the term doesn’t actually have any legal meaning.

This means that, regardless of how long you have been together or your living situation, you do not have the same rights as married couples.

If you live with your partner, you are legally known as cohabitees, and the legal principles that apply will depend on your circumstances.

Common Law Marriage

The notion of ‘Common Law Marriage’, in which people wrongly think couples who have lived together for over two years will automatically receive the same rights and financial protection as a couple who are married or in a civil partnership, is a myth.

This misconception often leads to couples being in unexpected financial situations, particularly in the event of a breakup or their partner’s passing.
Getting married isn’t the only way to protect your family’s financial future, however, as the law provides cohabitees with other options such as Cohabitation Agreements.  

Common Law Partner Entitlement

If your relationship breaks down, you won’t be able to make a claim on any shared property or assets like you would if you were married.

Similarly, if your partner passes away without a Will, you wouldn’t be able to claim any of their assets (including their estate, pension or savings). This means making a Will is even more important for cohabiting partners to protect their assets and avoid significant emotional and financial hardship in the future.

This is where a Cohabitation Agreement can come in useful, especially for those who aren’t considering marriage but are concerned about their future finances.

Cohabitation Agreements

A Cohabitation Agreement is a legally binding document for partners who are already cohabiting or are about to move in together, outlining their financial commitments to each other.

Its main purpose is to protect your financial assets if your relationship breaks down, stating how you’ll split your property, its contents, any personal belongings, savings and other assets.  It can also be used to agree on how you and your partner will manage your day-to-day finances, for example:

  • How much each person contributes to rent or mortgage and bills
  • Who pays for the upkeep of the property
  • Who owns what share in a property 
  • What happens in the event of separation
  • Who pays what debts
  • Who shall be nominated for death-in-service benefits

Is a Cohabitation Agreement Legally Binding?

Yes, Cohabitation Agreements are legally binding as long as they’re done properly. The agreement must also be signed as a deed to make it lawful.

While you can create your own Cohabitation Agreement, it's always recommended cohabitees take legal advice before creating (or entering into) an agreement to safeguard their rights and clarify expectations within the relationship. 

How Can GloverPriest Help?

If you need legal advice about any issue relating to cohabiting or Cohabitation Agreements, get in touch with our expert and compassionate family law solicitors.


Contact Us

At GloverPriest, we understand navigating the law can be a difficult task to take on alone. That’s why we created this comprehensive guide to help promote information for everyone to use.

If you’re looking to speak to a solicitor, please call us from the number below. Alternatively, you can fill out our online form and we’ll be right with you.

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