A couple that is cohabiting is one that is living together without being in a civil partnership or a marriage. On the other hand, a civil partnership is a legal arrangement whereby a couple (same-sex or opposite-sex) who aren’t related enter into a registered legal union.

Unlike cohabitation, a civil partnership gives the partners more legal rights and responsibilities towards each other during and when the relationship ends. However, cohabiting partners can draw up an agreement, known as a cohabitation contract, outlining their legal rights such as property ownership, parental responsibility, joint-ownership of possessions, etc.

In summary, here are some differences between cohabiting and civil partnership:

Legal recognition: A civil partnership is legally recognised, whilst cohabiting is not.

Ending the relationship: Cohabiting partners can end the relationship informally without court involvement while ending a civil partnership requires applying to the court for an annulment/dissolution.

Financial support: In a cohabiting arrangement, partners do not have a legal responsibility to support each other financially once the relationship ends, unlike in a civil partnership where the law requires them to support each other.

Housing (rented accommodation and owner-occupied): The partner who owns the home or is the named tenant can request the other to leave in a cohabiting relationship, while civil partnership grants a partner the right to stay no matter who the named tenant or homeowner is.


Take a look at some of our more frequently asked questions.

We are confident you'll find the information useful, and if you would like to know more or your question is not covered please contact us using our contact form at the foot of the page, or alternatively call us.

We use cookies to improve your experience and to help us understand how you use our site. By using this site, you accept our use of cookies. Learn more x