We recognise that the breakdown of a relationship can be a painful and difficult time for couples, but our family law specialists have the combined knowledge, skills and experience to assist you through any potential dispute and make you fully aware of your rights.

English law regards cohabiting couples as having no legal obligations to one another, which can cause issues for couples who decide to separate. This means you will have no rights in relation to each other’s assets, unless you jointly own property or have children together, although there can often be disputes in terms of your legal obligations.


The home of a cohabiting couple is the biggest cause of dispute in the majority of cases our team handles, as the ownership of the property dictates how the law is applied and therefore how the property will be divided.

Sole Ownership

In this case, only the person whose name is on the property will be awarded ownership. The only exception may be in the case of ‘implied trust’, where intention existed between the couple that the other party had a legal interest in the property. However, the non-owning party must demonstrate that such discussions took place and that detrimental reliance existed, meaning they financially contributed to the property in some way, such as helping to pay the mortgage, paying for repairs to the property or assisting with the original purchase.

Joint ownership

In the case of joint ownership, the law dictates that the property is owned, and therefore split, equally between both parties, even if one party has made a larger financial contribution. The only exception is where a deed of trust exists, detailing the ownership of the property and whether one party has contributed more money towards owning it. To release equity from the property, the sale can be forced by either party.


In cases where there are children involved, it is the legal obligation of both partners to provide financial support. If this is not being met, a partner can pursue a range of orders to fulfil this obligation for the benefit of the children, such as enforcing a parent to meet child maintenance costs or provide a lump sum.

Whether you jointly own a property or have children with a cohabiting partner, we recommend consulting our family law specialists prior to separation to ensure you are fully aware of your rights. Please call 0800 069 9060 for further information and advice.