We have considerable expertise in handling disputes arising from cohabitation, relating both to property and to ongoing financial support for children. We also are increasingly called upon to advise in the preparation of Cohabitation Agreements, in order to provide couples with greater certainty in the event of relationship breakdown.
Many people believe that cohabiting couples acquire the same legal rights as married couples (the so-called “common law wife” myth).
Although Resolution and other organisations are campaigning for a change in the law to give cohabiting couples greater rights, at present someone who has been cohabiting can be shocked to learn that they enjoy very limited protection when a relationship breaks down.
Amongst the issues that arise when cohabiting couples separate are:
- the ownership of property held during the relationship
- financial provision for children of the relationship
- resolving child arrangements – for further information, please see Children and Parenting.
The law surrounding property ownership is complex and largely based upon trust law principles.
We have considerable experience in handling cases where property ownership is in dispute, including cases under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996, under which the court can make declarations to resolve the ownership of property or for sale.
We also are increasingly called upon to advise in the preparation of Cohabitation Agreements, in order to provide couples with greater certainty in the event of relationship breakdown.
Children Act Schedule 1 cases
The law governing financial provision for children of cohabiting relationships is set out in Schedule 1 of the Children Act 1989, under which the court can, for the benefit of a child, make awards for a property, lump sums and, in some circumstances, maintenance.
Edward Cooke handled the first reported case involving a long cohabiting relationship in which the father was not “fabulously rich”, N v D  1FLR 1629. He has also written articles in this field, including for leading national family law publication “Family Law”.