What rights do I have if I cohabit rather than marry?

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics reveal that only 50.5% of people in England and Wales were married in 2018; which has decreased from 51% in 2017. On the other hand, cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type, with an increase of 25.8% in the last decade. 

With this in mind, it is important to consider the following rights you have as a cohabitee:


  • If you rent a property together with both names on the tenancy agreement, you are both responsible for the rent and other tenancy conditions. 

  • If you own a property together as joint tenants, your partner will automatically inherit the property when you pass away which will override any provisions in your will. 

  • If you own a property as tenants in common with your partner, you will be entitled to your own share of the property if you split up. However, your partner will not automatically inherit your share of the property when you pass away unless this is included in your will. 

  • If you cohabit with your partner but do not own the property or a share of it, you will have no right to continue living in it if you split up unless you can prove you contributed to the deposit or the mortgage payments, or have paid for major renovations on the basis you would own a share of the property.

  • If you and your partner have a child together, the father will only have parental responsibility if they are named on the child’s birth certificate. However, if you split up, the father will still have a legal obligation to pay child support even if they do not have parental responsibility.

  • Your state pension will not automatically pass to your partner if you pass away.

  • You will not automatically be treated as your partner’s next of kin if they become ill. 

In order to protect your interests as a cohabitee, you may want to consider obtaining legal advice about entering into a cohabitation agreement.

If you would like any further information or advice in relation to cohabiting, please contact our specialist family lawyers: Mark Vandaele on 01902 796930 (mvandaele@georgegreen.co.uk) at our Wolverhampton office or Rachel Baker on 01384 340 580 (rbaker@georgegreen.co.uk) at our Cradley Heath office.