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Every couple, including same sex couples, who are thinking of living together (cohabiting) should take legal advice before doing so.

Many people mistakenly think that by cohabiting they acquire legal rights such as becoming a “common-law wife”. However, this is a misconception, as English Law does not recognise this concept.

Although the issues that arise on the breakdown of a cohabiting couple’s relationship are similar to those that arise on the breakdown of a marriage, the law does not provide the same legal remedies. For example, cohabitees are not entitled to ask for maintenance from each other nor are they entitled to a financial settlement under which assets can be transferred between them. Cohabitees have to fall back on trust and property law to resolve disputes between them over property, which can be complex and unsatisfactory.

For these reasons, it is crucial for couples contemplating cohabitation to take specialist legal advice before they do so.


The Kernott v Jones judgement has now been released.

There is some financial protection for the children of such couples. The Child Support Agency will assess child support for children, whether their parents are married or not. Furthermore, under Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, the Courts also have power to make financial settlements for the maintenance and housing of children. Some couples can now regulate their living together relation through the Civil Partnership Act. The Act creates a new legal relationship of civil partnership, which two people of the same-sex can form by signing a registration document. It also provides same-sex couples that form a civil partnership with parity of treatment in a wide range of legal matters with those opposite-sex couples who enter into a civil marriage. Important rights and responsibilities will flow from forming a civil partnership, helping same-sex couples to organise their lives together. Provisions in the Act include:A duty to provide reasonable maintenance for your civil partner and any children of the family

  • Civil partners to be assessed in the same way as spouses for child support
  • Equitable treatment for the purposes of life assurance
  • Employment and pension benefits
  • Recognition under intestacy rules
  • Access to fatal accidents compensation;
  • Protection from domestic violence
  • Recognition for immigration and nationality purposes

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