Separating After Cohabitation: Sorting Out Finances

January 01, 2019  |   Posted by :   |   Blog

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Unmarried couples who live together do not automatically have the same legal rights as married couples, and when it comes to separation, sorting out the division of finances, property and assets can be tricky.

If your situation isn’t straightforward, it’s important to get legal advice on what you may be entitled to, and how to reach an agreement with your ex for a fair resolution.

The most common causes for dispute between cohabiting couples during separation are:

  • Handling finances (including dealing with any shared debts)
  • Splitting assets such as property (particularly if only one of you is named on the deeds)
  • Dividing possessions
  • Making children’s arrangements

When it comes to finances and assets, a good place to start is to sit down and make a comprehensive list of what you own and any debts you may have. This should include both individual and shared assets, including property, savings, possessions and vehicles.

Next, try to work together and consider how to fairly divide these assets and manage your debts. If finances are shared, you may already have an idea of what proportion each of you should be entitled to. It’s when bills or property are in one name only that issues often arise. For example, if only one of you is named on a tenancy agreement, loan, or title deed, technically that person will end up solely responsible. However, if the other partner regularly paid towards a mortgage, or was complicit in creating debt, you may be able to make a claim for joint responsibility. If you have children together, you will both be expected to contribute towards the ongoing well-being and living costs of your children.

If you’re unable to reach an agreement together, you can seek the help of an impartial third party such as a mediator, arbitrator or family law solicitor, who can give you advice and help you reach a solution. A mediator or collaborative family lawyer is a good choice for coming to an agreement about children’s arrangements, as they will encourage you to work cooperatively as co-parents during and after separation. If your ex is behaving unfairly or has made a claim against you, a solicitor will be able to advise you on where you stand legally.

A cohabitation agreement is the best way to ensure that your assets are protected in the event of separation, as well as protecting your relationship from discrepancies in the law when it comes to cohabiting couples. A cohabitation agreement, or ‘living together agreement’ is an official legal document that sets out how you would hypothetically divide up your assets and liabilities, and can even include your intentions for childcare and living arrangements should you decide to separate. You’re both more likely to stick to an agreement if it was made pre-separation and created together, and it may be helpful in resolving any legal disputes in the future.

To speak to an experienced family lawyer about cohabitation rights, separation or your options for out of court dispute resolution, visit

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