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What is cohabiting?

Cohabiting means living together like a couple without marriage. Different countries have different laws regarding cohabitation situations, and this practice has become very common, especially in western countries.

In the UK, laws are a bit different, which I am going to discuss in this article. This piece is all about cohabiting; you will be able to know about cohabiting relationships and rights. So let’s get started.


Cohabiting definition

If you are looking for a simple cohabiting definition, here is one for you:

Cohabitation is an arrangement where two people are not married but live together. They are often involved in a romantic or sexually intimate relationship on a long-term or permanent basis.

What does cohabiting means UK?

What does cohabiting means UK? Here is a cohabiting definition for you:

“Cohabitation in the United Kingdom, according to social security law, would typically relate to a couple being treated as living together as a married couple even if not married or in a civil partnership. This has the effect that for means-tested benefits, their resources are treated as held in common. There are also effects on benefits that depend on the claimant not having a partner.

Cohabiting relationship

A live-in relationship is another name for cohabiting relationship. These days about half of the babies are born to couples who are not legally married; in the United Kingdom precise percentage was 47.3% during 2011 while it was 51.3% during 2012 in Scotland.

Couples in a cohabiting relationship usually believe that they have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples or have no rights and responsibilities at all. So if you are planning to have a cohabiting relationship, you must know how it affects your legal position and how you can protect yourself in case this relationship does not work, or one of you dies.

Living together means fewer rights as compared to marriage. If you are wondering what the actual difference is, let’s have a look:

What will be your legal status?

Cohabiting couples

There is nothing like a proper definition, cohabiting couples live together, and that’s it. Sometimes cohabiting couples are also called common-law partners. This is simply another way to say that a couple lives together.

Well, you can think about formalizing different aspects of your legal status with your partner with the help of a legal contract called a cohabitation agreement, which I’ll explain further in the end. This agreement outlines all your rights and obligation of partners towards each other. In addition, to make a cohabiting agreement, it would be better to make a legal agreement if you are sharing a property with your partner which is known as a declaration of trust. You can take help from a family law solicitor.


It is totally up to you; you choose a religious or civil marriage; however, in some cases, only religious marriage is not enough; you will need a civil marriage. There must be proof of marriage like a verified copy of an entry in the UK marriages register or a marriage certificate in whichever country where this marriage took place.

Banking issues

Cohabiting partner

If you are living with someone and both of you possess separate bank accounts, none of you can access money from the account of the other partner. In case one partner dies, all this partners money will be the property of this partner’s estate, and you cannot use this until the estate is settled. But if you two have a joint account, any partner can have access to the account even if only one partner pays. If your relationship ends and you are unable to agree to whom this money belongs, then only court can decide it for you. But if you haven’t put money in the account or have taken it out, it will be unfair to claim your right to funds which are not legally yours..

If you two have a joint account and one partner dies, the other partner is entitled to the money in the account and can have access to the account unlimited. But a few situations might be taken into account while calculating the estate value of the dead person.


In the case of a married couple, both partners can access a joint bank account as long as they are legally married. Does not matter who is putting money into the account. In case one partner dies, the account becomes the property of the other partner immediately. Overdrafts and debts related to a joint account will be the responsibility of both partners, does not matter who incurred them.

If both partners have a separate bank account and one of them dies, the other partner may be allowed by the bank to withdraw money if the amount is not that huge.

Family or children responsibility

Parents who have parental responsibility have equal rights to participate in important decisions regarding the life of a kid, for example, his health, home, religion, education, property and money. It will last until when a child turns 18.

Supporting children financially

To support children financially, both parents are equally responsible. The father is also responsible equally for the child’s financial support even if he does not live with his mother and his name is not on the birth certificate of the child. Child Maintenance Service will contact the father for maintenance if he does not live with his mother. Just like that, they can contact the mother if a child lives with the father. Same sex partners are equally responsible for supporting their child financially in case they are legal parents of the child.


Cohabiting family: A mother can appoint someone as a guardian to act after her death, and a father can do this too if he has parental responsibility.

Marriage: Any of the parents can appoint someone as guardian to act in case both parents die.


In case there is no will, the child of a married and cohabiting couple has the legal right to inherit from legal parents and families of both parents.


Rules regarding the nationality of a kid are very complicated and dependent on the immigration status of parents, whether they are cohabiting or married.


Both cohabiting couples and married couples can apply to adopt a child if they want to jointly.

Inheritance and death

Cohabiting couples

In the case of cohabiting couples, in case one partner dies without having a will, the other partner will not be able to inherit anything automatically unless they own a property jointly. Being a cohabiting couple, you have to make wills if you want to make sure that other partner inherits. In case one partner dies, and there is nothing much in his will for the surviving partner, the individual can claim from the estate via court. If you inherit property or money from a cohabiting partner, you have to pay for inheritance tax just like married couples.


In case you are married and your partner dies, you can surely inherit under the will of your dead partner in case it makes provisions you will have to follow these. In case a partner does not leave a will and dies the other partner will inherit all or some from the estate depending on the worth.


A person is liable for debts that are in his name only and not for those which are in his partner’s name. You might be responsible for the debts that are in joint names and for others for which you have legal ‘joint and several responsibilities. For instance, in the UK, if a partner owns council tax, both partners will be responsible for the debt even if one of you contributes or not. In case your partner has debt and has acted you as guarantor, you will be legally responsible for this.

If you are a married couple, and your partner had debts or financial obligations before you two were married, you will not be responsible for that. Marriage, cohabitation or divorce can impact your financial assets as your individual priorities vary.

Domestic violence

Domestic violence is unacceptable in any case. So you have every right to take help from the court for yourself and your kids if your partner is toxic and violent. The court will order the violent partner immediately to leave your home for a certain period of time. If the violent partner does not leave the house even after the court order, he/she can be arrested. A person can be convicted of rape if they are cohabiting or married.


Cohabiting partners

A cohabiting couple does not need the intervention of a court for separation. They can separate informally. But related to the care of the children, you can take help from the court.


Married couples can separate informally if they want, but if they want to end this relationship legally, they have to visit court to get divorced. Both can stay at the marital home until they have divorced, and the court has ordered one partner to leave.

Financial support for maintenance

Cohabiting couples

In this kind of settlement, neither partner has a legal responsibility to support the other partner financially. In case you have kids, you can take help regarding how to arrange child maintenance. Voluntary contracts for paying maintenance to each other can be really difficult to enforce. If both partners are living together and also claim a means-tested benefit, it will be a situation where you will be treated as a couple, and income will be assessed jointly.

Means-tested benefits will include Income Support, Universal Credit, Working Tax Credit, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance or, income-related Employment and Support Allowance.


In the case of marriage, every partner has a legal responsibility to support the other one. If one partner does not support the other, the individual can take help from the court, and the court will ask the other spouse to support. Your ex-partner will have to support you even after your marriage if you two had made a legal agreement or in case there is a court order. Partners can make an agreement that they will not support each other e.g a prenuptial agreement.

Cohabiting rights

Many couples believe that cohabiting together is just like getting married, but it is not reality, as mentioned above. In the UK, there is no validity of common-law marriage. In reality, living together will not give you rights automatically, especially to each other’s property, no matter how long you two are living together.

So problems can occur if one partner moves to the property the other person rents or owns. You need to be very careful regarding this as things will change if you two decide to live together. If you want the security of your rights, it would be better to consider a cohabitation agreement. Let’s have a look at what is a cohabitation agreement and how it benefits you.

Cohabitation agreement

If you are living with your partner or planning to do so, considering a cohabitation agreement is the smartest choice. It is also known as a living together agreement, and you can consider it whether you are a heterosexual couple or a same sex couple. This is helpful in setting ownership of assets you both have, your responsibilities towards each other, particularly of financial nature, and how jointly assets and savings will be distributed in case you two separate in future.

Most couples these days choose to be in a cohabiting relationship before they get married. Those who do not want to bind each other legally ever choose this way of living too. As there is no legal security with this kind of relationship, problems may occur if a relationship has to end. A cohabitation agreement is something that can save you from this trouble.

What elements does it cover?

A cohabitation agreement clarifies who owns what and also the proportion in a relationship. Here are some elements that are covered by the cohabitation agreement:

  • How household bills will be dealt with
  • Home deposit
  • Money and bank accounts
  • Property ownership
  • What share rent or mortgage will each partner pay?
  • Pensions
  • Life insurance
  • Debts payments
  • Assets, for instance, furniture, cars, jewellery and other property
  • Next of kin rights
  • Pets

What you must include in a cohabitation agreement?

Although I have shared some elements that are covered in this agreement still you must consider a few factors that you must include in a cohabitation agreement. Here these are:

The property you had before cohabiting: Property you already had before this relationship can be kept separate from cohabiting agreement, and this way the other person cannot have a claim over it. But if the  other partner participates in paying the mortgage or for renovation.

Property bought during cohabiting: It would be better to address this same as above if only one person has a name on-the property agreement. But if you two jointly own a property, you have to think about what will happen to this, would you like to sell it or not.

Wills and inheritance: As it is mentioned above, you will not be able to inherit anything automatically if you two are not married, so if you want to leave something for your partner, you will have to address this in this agreement.

Legal advice: To make an agreement, you have to seek legal advice independently. This would help in making sure that there is no doubt about what you agree for this cohabitation agreement.

Why do you need a cohabitation agreement?

Cohabiting agreement can give you peace of mind. Initially, it may seem like you two are in love, and nothing wrong can happen, but this life and things do not always happen in the way we intended. So it always better to be ready for every possible situation. Here is why you should consider having a cohabitation agreement:

  • You can have a clear understanding of your financial obligations and rights
  • You have no misunderstandings regarding your responsibilities and rights while you two live together in a particular way regarding ownership of the property
  • If you split up, there are no disagreements or confusions
  • You have proof of everything, and if you think your rights are not fulfilled, you can take help from the court

Cohabiting Reddit

Here are some suggestions by the Reddit users for those who are thinking about cohabiting:

“Have you already bought the home? Because my advice would be to try renting together first. That’s a huge investment to get tied up in if it turns out you can’t stand living together.”

“Have the common areas, but also carve a corner of the house out just for you. So you can just go and be not together 100% of the time. Sometimes, you’ll piss each other off. That’s normal.

  • The start is the hardest because you give up part of your autonomy,
  • Be open, be honest, be accepting, and it’ll go fine.
  • Compromise is key; one person can’t have their way on everything.
  • And enjoy it, it’s a big step, and it’s exciting :).
  • Oh, and money. Open a joint bank account, but keep your own.
  • Work out finances based on earnings. Split the bills the way that the finances are split. This sounds mad, but if your pay isn’t the same, it brings balance.
  • You make 1500 a month, and he makes 1000; you pay 3/5 of the bills. He pays 2/5ths. You keep 750; he keeps 500.
  • If you split it in half and your outgoings are the same as in, remember this is hypothetical.
  • You keep 875; he keeps 375. Quickly this can cause upset because you keep a bigger percentage of your money.
  • I know this sounds mad, but it’s really helped me in the past.”

“Myself and my partner rented for 3 years before deciding to buy our home. You never truly know someone fully until you live with them. My advice would be to share everything out whether it’s money or chores around the house. We do everything equally and it works out great!”

It can become pretty routine at times, so make sure you keep spontaneity within your relationship. Never stop dating even though you live together. Get out of the house, go for walks, get to know your neighbourhood. Make sure you continue investing in yourselves to grow as individuals, so you have more to bring to the relationship and keep you growing together. Good luck! I hope it works out for the best, both for you as a couple and as a home!

“Give eachother space. Depending on the house have your own areas you can go to if you want to be alone (which is natural) and respect the boundaries of that space. Chores – chores are different for every person, I enjoy cooking, I enjoy hoovering and I enjoy doing the washing, but I hate folding /sorting clothes and doing the dishes. So in an ideal world I’d do the chores I like and he would do the chores he likes. And then we would split the ones we both don’t like. That way the chores are less of a chore (if that makes sense). It’s little compromises. Talk about the future. Make sure you have the same goals now before you move in together (hope you’ve done this). And talk about money and how you’re going to work it (hope you’ve done this). Also. Sadly, talk about who would go where if you split up and who would get what (eg my brother and his wife have had a deal since they started renting with eachother, that she would continue to rent and keep the cats as he has family closer so would have somewhere to go, whereas she wouldn’t. Practical conversation”

“I’m living in cohabitation hell at the moment; my partner is in and out of work; she misses family (she moved states to be with me); and she’s a bit of a messy lass. I love her but it’s putting a huge strain on the relationship. We’ve had sex ~2 times since she moved in 6 mths ago; we fight about spending money, and after working 9-5 I’m expected to walk the dog, clean house and do the dishes. This is all on the premise that she grocery shops (with my $ ) and cooks dinner. The only latest positive compromise we’ve had is that I got her to clean the stove after she baked lots. TL;DR: Make sure you know what you’re getting into. Discuss who does the chores, who shops, who gets space when they want it, etc.”

“I won’t marry someone until I’ve lived with them, there can be too many unknown issues and I’m not comfortable legally chaining myself to someone without knowing his bad habits at home and how bad they actually are. That being said, I wouldn’t move in with someone (especially if it requires a time commitment with a lease or something) unless we’re engaged. However, I also don’t do the “wife” schtick (ever), I’m not taking care of a grown man whether we’re engaged, married, living together, whatever.”


Cohabiting can be a good option if you want to make sure that you are marrying the right person. If you do not believe in marriage, you can go for it too. But unfortunately, it does not give you the security of your legal rights as marriage gives. So it would be better to consider the cohabitation agreement option before you plan to live together.

So this was all about cohabiting; we have triedour best to share useful information and have also shared some suggestions from Reddit users who are cohabiting with their partner. Hope s you will find this article helpful.

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