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Finances and arrangements for children of cohabitation breakdown

The couple who chose not to get married and to live together or cohabit do not have to formally terminate their relationship if the relationship breaks down. They can choose to end their relationship and effect this by living apart and physically separating.

However, even though as an unmarried couple you don't need a solicitor to end your cohabitation status, there are still many areas linked to the relationship break down which may need legal advice and input. On separation you may still have to organise the arrangements for the children and the financial arrangements - and these matters may be difficult to agree.


The breakdown of a relationship is hard on the adults involved: it is harder still for children who may not be mature enough to understand what is happening to their world. We can help you to manage your relationship breakdown with the least possible negative impact on the children.

Children benefit from security and stability. The breakdown of their parents' relationship can rob them of that consistency which they have previously enjoyed. As a parent you can do many things to provide your children with the best possible transition upon the breakdown.

  • We strongly recommend that if you do have differences about the arrangements for your children, you should attempt to explore the possibility of reaching an agreement through mediation.  We can point you in the direction of various mediation companies
  • The children need to know that the relationship breakdown is not their fault. They need support with the understanding that the difficulties are between the adults and that this is not as a result of anything which they have done.
  • The children need to know that they are still loved by both of their parents.
  • The children need to be able to value both of their parents and love both their parents. Children should not be dragged into the argument between the parents.
  • Clear defined arrangements for the children's housing provides the best security for the children. By agreeing the financial arrangements you can give the children the best start going forward.

Obtaining Legal advice at the outset can help a great deal in providing you with information about the options available. This can assist you in reaching an amicable resolution to the plan for the future arrangements.

However, it is not always possible to discuss matters with your partner. It is not always easy to agree things. You may have been "at odds" within the relationship. The relationship breakdown may magnify those differences. The emotional impact of the breakdown can make discussion and agreement seem impossible.

You may also experience difficulties in that even though you are both parents, you may each have a very different parenting style. Individuals can have strong views about what they think is best for their children and this may not coincide with the view taken by the other parent.

If you simply cannot agree on a way forward regarding the arrangements for the children we can advise you upon the best options going forward. If your dispute needs to be resolved within the court process we can represent you within that process to ensure that your position is put most effectively within the court arena.


If you have chosen to live together and not to marry there is no formal legal status of Living together. You do not gain any special legal status no matter how long you may live together. There is no such thing as common law husband and wife.

This means that:-

  • You do not have any obligations to maintain each other after the relationship ends.
  • You do not have any claims on each other's money if the relationship ends (unless you have joint bank accounts or jointly owned assets).
  • You do not have a claim in each other's pension if the relationship ends ( unless you are named as the beneficiary) .
  • You do not automatically have a claim over their property where you have lived together merely because you lived together in a relationship.

As a result of the fact that there is no specific law which provides for the relationship breakdown the breakdown of the cohabitation relationship often involves more complex areas of Law.

The claims which can arise on the cohabitation breakdown are not simple and straight forward legal matters. They arise in the following situations:-

  • If you have a joint child or children with your partner then it is possible that there may be a claim against the other parent of the child or children. There is a route to obtain financial assistance through the court in respect of housing for the children and other financial assistance for a child or children who live with you under the Children Act. These are known as Schedule 1 Applications. We can advise you fully as to whether there is a potential claim and what form that claim may take. These claims are specifically for the benefit of the children and they are claims which require expert legal advice from experienced lawyers such as you will find here at QS Yates & co.
  • If you own a house jointly with your cohabitation partner then you will have an interest or share in the value of that property. Sometimes it is not easy to work out what the share should be or whether you can force a sale to get your share of that money out (or if you can prevent a sale to keep the house as your home). We can advise upon the share or interest in the house and what can be done with the property.
  • Sometimes if the house where you live with your cohabitation partner is in the sole name of one of you only there may still be a claim that the other non-owning partner can make over the property. There are circumstances where the non-owning partner can claim an interest for a share in the value of the house. The Law relating to claiming an interest over a property which is not in your name is complex. You should seek legal advice as to whether there is any merit in attempting to pursue the claim (or defending such a claim) and again our specialist family team have the knowledge and experience to help.
  • If there are children then there is an obligation for one parent to pay to maintain their child or children who do not live with them. The legal obligation to pay maintenance applies to unmarried parents even if they have hardly lived together ( or never lived together). Payments have to be made by the parent with whom the children do not live to the parent with whom the children do live. There is a set formula for calculating how much child maintenance should be paid. The amount can be agreed based upon the legal formula. If it cannot be agreed then either parent can apply to the Child Maintenance Service to request that an assessment of child maintenance is made. We can provide you with detailed advice on the child maintenance payable.

The law which can be used to assist unmarried couples when their relationship breaks down is law which is not tailored to the cohabiting couple. The law is complex and difficult to negotiate. We have a wealth of experience in this area of law and will be able to advise you fully regarding all the aspect of any possible claims.


When your family circumstances change and your cohabitation relationship breaks down it is a good time to consider your testamentary wishes and to make provision for those you care about in the event of anything happening to you. Please contact us for an appointment to discuss making a Will.


If you need further individual advice please call us on 0845 482 0641 and we can discuss your problems in more detail

Team members

Gail Cook
Chartered Legal Executive

News and media

  • News
    • Posted on January 2, 2018
      QualitySolicitors Yates & Co is bringing in the New Year fresh-faced with an office move in the heart of Nottingham.

      To welcome clients at the new location, the team are offering 10 per cent off wills and probate services throughout the month of January.

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