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Family Law - Cohabitation

Men and women who choose to live together without entering into a marriage and same sex couples who do not enter into a civil partnership are called cohabitees. The term ‘common law’ wife or husband is not recognised by the law and is often mistakenly used by the public to describe cohabitation. Unlike marriage or civil partnership when such a relationship breaks down there is no obligation for either party to provide financially for the other.

If the home that you lived in is in your partner’s name only, irrespective of how long you lived together you are not entitled to a share by virtue of this. You must establish that you have a claim against the property by showing that you have acquired what is called a beneficial interest. This is a complicated process and if your former partner rejects your claim you must issue court proceedings. You must then rely on case law rather than any act of Parliament. The situation with jointly owned property is much simpler.

  • When property is owned jointly the starting point is that ownership will be in equal shares.
  • When owned in one party’s name you need to establish a ‘resulting trust’ which is based on financial contributions made to the property.
  • Alternatively establish a ‘constructive trust’ based on promises made about your share of the property.
  • It is better to deal with the issue of ownership before the purchase of a property is possible.