How to Protect Yourself if you Break Up with your Unmarried Partner

Alison Dukes, a trained collaborative family lawyer with over 20 years’ experience, discusses the benefits of a cohabitation agreement.

More and more people are choosing to live together outside of marriage and, if not careful, are putting themselves at financial risk. People choose not to marry for a number of reasons but may not realise the financial consequences of failing to protect themselves by entering into a cohabitation agreement.

For example, even if you have been living with someone in their house for decades, you may have no legal right to remain in the property if the relationship breaks down and, in the absence of any written agreement to the contrary, you may not have any right to any share of the property either.

Cohabitation Agreement?

Essentially, the law does not recognise a relationship outside of marriage and there is no legal protection available for a partner who does not own or jointly own a share of the home or who has not signed an agreement regulating what should happen if the relationship breaks down. A Living Together Agreement isn’t just about breaking up it is about how you will live together. It can set out contributions to any property that is jointly owned and detail how the various outgoings are going to be paid for. It can act as a prompt for you to think about how to divide day to day costs fairly and help prevent arguments in the future. In case the relationship does break down the agreement can also cover the ownership of contents and other personal possessions.

Property Ownership

If you own a property with your partner it is very important that you consider at the outset what your respective interests will be. Joint owners can be either “beneficial joint tenants” or “tenants in common”. If it is the former then the property will pass automatically to the survivor of them irrespective of how the deceased left his or her Estate by Will or under the Rules of Intestacy. If you own as tenants in common then you can specify what percentage of the property you each own and that share will not pass to the survivor of you automatically. You should consider entering into a Declaration of Trust if you want to own as tenants in common setting out clearly the basis of your ownership and occupation of the property.

If you would like to discuss a Living Together Agreement and are looking for a family lawyer in Bristol, you can contact Alison Dukes, on 0117 962 1205 or email

This article is provided for general information purposes only and represents our understanding of the relevant law and practice as at the date of uploading. This article should not be relied upon as legal advice pertaining to any specific factual situation. Legal decisions should be made only after proper consultation with a legal professional of your choosing.

Telephone icon Request a call back