Cohabiting Families – Miscellaneous

Cohabiting Families – Miscellaneous

In many instances a couple who are cohabiting, but not married, do not have the same legal rights afforded to married couples and children. There is often a misunderstanding that cohabiting couples can obtain similar rights under the notion of having a  ‘common law marriage’. This is a common misconception and this guide sets out a range of miscellaneous, but important, legal issues that cohabiting couples should be aware of when they choose to live together.


Briefly, unmarried natural fathers do not automatically have the bundle of legal rights and obligations associated with fatherhood, unless registered on the birth certificate or formally granted by the mother or the Court. For further information in this regard, see our leaflets on Child Arrangements.  


There is no assumed legal duty upon either cohabitant to support the other, even after years of living together. If the couple have had a child/children then the there may be an obligation to provide for the children of the relationship, however, this does not extent to the children’s parents. 

For further information in this regard, see our leaflet on Financial Support for Children.


Under the general Social Security legislation, all cohabiting couples will be treated the same as married couples/civil partners for the purpose of administering the benefit system and incomes will be aggregated for the calculations of any entitlement to means tested benefits (e.g. Tax/Universal Credits).


The rules for cohabiting couples upon death are very different to the rules for married couples or civil partners. Even where couples have been living together for years as “man and wife”, they are not recognised as next of kin and, therefore, do not receive any automatic protection in the event of intestacy. Equally, unless specific provision has been made under the pension rules as a “dependant”, they receive no automatic provision under any pensions either. 

However, depending on the length of cohabitation, it may be possible to bring a claim under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. This would entitle the Applicant to make a claim for such provision as is necessary for maintenance (usually capitalised) against the estate, where no reasonable provision has otherwise been made. 

For further information see our leaflet on Inheritance claims for family and dependants.