Cohabitation Disputes

What is a cohabitation dispute? 

A cohabitation dispute will arise when couples, who live together, end their relationship and their separation raises issues between them. Often issues which may arise in relation to ownership of the property they share may be straightforward, if the title to the property they share indicates the ownership structure (ie as joint tenants or tenants in common). Otherwise, determining any interest in a shared property may be complicated. 


Cohabitation disputes solicitors

If you are unmarried and decide to separate, you will not have the right to share your partner’s finances or property by contrast to those who are married. Instead, each disputed asset is dealt with as a separate entity by applying the relevant law on trusts and property. We can advise you on steps you could take to protect yourself in these situations, or, prior to moving in together, we can advise you on the terms of a cohabitation agreement.

If you own a property together, you may be able to make a claim under the Trust of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act which enables the Court to make an order in relation to ownership of the property and who can remain there. Ultimately this may involve technical legal arguments to demonstrate a party’s financial interest. The Court would look to the joint common intention of the owners when the property was purchased. This is often determined by the name on the title, but agreements, financial contributions and other circumstances may also be relevant. 

While the family dynamics may be very similar to a divorce or civil partnership dissolution case, the law and procedure are not. The process has more in common with civil litigation. Until the law changes, in this country, there is no automatic entitlement for cohabitees to be able to claim for a lump sum order, transfer of property, share of pension or maintenance on separation. 

Cohabitation disputes can be legally straightforward, for example, if ownership documentation is clear as to how the equity in a property should be divided. However, they can also be extremely complex, particularly when there is a dispute as to what the parties intended, and there is no express declaration of trust. Extensive evidence going back many years may need to be assembled and analysed.

The majority of disputes can be resolved by negotiation or through a non-court dispute resolution process. However, where the involvement of the court is needed, we can advise you on the court procedure and ensure that your interests are protected.

In relation to financial disputes, if there are children, the Court will consider the best interests of the child and can, under Schedule 1 Children Act 1989, make an order providing for a property to be purchased or transferred to the other party until a child reaches the age of 18 whereupon it will be transferred back to the purchasing party. 

In such circumstances, the financial position of the parents will be taken into account by the Court before any order is made. 


Family Solicitors London

Our specialist family solicitors, based in London, provide a professional and efficient service. To chat our discreet and confidential family lawyers call us on 020 7123 4600, email us at or make an online enquiry here.


We are here to help guide you through what can be a stressful and difficult process, and to achieve the best result for you.


Lucy Marks specialises in all forms of family law applications, including high value financial applications on divorce.

If you would like to arrange a meeting or have any questions, please contact us or fill in the form to the right.


96 Park Street, London W1K 6NY
020 7123 4600