Cohabitation has seen rapid growth. Despite this, the legal rights and protections that are available remain very limited to cohabiting couples compared to those who are married or in civil partnerships.

There is a lack of legal protection currently in place that can leave cohabiting partners vulnerable and at risk of financial hardship.

For example, if a cohabiting couple part ways, there is no automatic right to claim financial support from their former partner. Similarly, if a cohabiting partner dies without leaving a Will, their surviving partner has no automatic right to inherit their possessions.

So, what can you do to protect yourself?

Cohabitation Agreements

This is a document which records arrangements between two or more people who have agreed to live together, as a couple or otherwise.

It sets out the parties' rights and responsibilities in relation to the property they live in or intend to live in together. It can set out how the property is to be held, how other capital and assets are owned between you and how they should be divided in the event that you separate. advising on disputes arising from cohabitation and co-ownership of property.

Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA)/Property Disputes

You may face concerns that you have invested money into a property but it is held in your partner's sole name or you may have agreed to joint ownership initially but then over the course of time you believe the share you own has altered.

By taking specialist advice at the outset you can try and reach a settlement outside of Court proceedings which is more cost-effective for all parties.

Sam Hickman is a Partner and Head of the Family team at VWV, a national law firm with a local office on Clarendon Road, Watford. Get in touch on 0117 314 5435 or at, or visit