Cohabitating compared to living as a Married Couple

Friday Apr 21, 2017 Relationships

If you are not married, and living with your partner in a property then you’re cohabitating, this is often referred to as a common law marriage however caution should be taken, as there is no legal recognition to this relationship. As this has become ever popular many are formalising their living arrangements with their partners by way of a contract, described as a ‘cohabitation agreement’. This agreement tends to outline the obligations of each party towards each other as well as demonstrating what will happen if the relationship breaks down. Anything can be included within the agreement and is a perfect opportunity to set down what will happen with the mortgage, property, bills ect, if the partnership ends.

If a couple marry under a religious ceremony then this marriage alone will not facilitate the rights of the civil law marriage, you will therefore remain, in the eyes of the law, a couple that are cohabitating. Therefore, if you are looking for the rights and protection that marriage bestows upon you, then you have to go through with the wedding!

The specific differences between those cohabitating and married are quite significant. For example if you’re married and a child is borne from the marriage, a father will automatically have parental responsibility of the child. If unmarried and living together, the father’s name will need to be placed on the birth certificate before he can enjoy the same rights as that of the mother.


If you hold separate bank accounts to that of your partner who you share your home with then neither of you will have access to the others account, even if one of you were to die, the balance in the account would go into the estate where it would then be dealt with. If however you’re married, even if the bank account is in separate accounts, the surviving spouse can still have the opportunity to reach the funds on the basis that it is not too large.

You may find yourself having lived with your partner for decades, having children and building a family together before your relationship then ends. Your job may have been to make the house, raise the children and cook the food for the family for all those years whilst your partner work guaranteeing your future. The truth is, if the relationship ends, you will be left with very little, and only a handful of what you put into the home monetary wise at the beginning. If you are married however, you will find yourself in equal footing with your husband. The court very much recognises running a household and raising the children of the marriage as a job, a job you should be repaid for if the marriage is to break down. This will however very much be dependent on the length of the marriage.

Whilst it appears you would be significantly more protected if married, when your relationship ends as a cohabitating couple, you don’t have to go through the heartache of a divorce and you can swiftly separate. What is advisable however is to always protect yourself, seek advice, research and put down on pen and paper rights and obligations on the premise that cohabitating does not work.