The Legal Landscapes of Cohabiting Couples

Date: December 12th
Author: Kate Metcalfe

A recent Supreme Court decision has radically altered the legal landscape for cohabiting couples seeking to either claim an interest in a property owned by the other or alter the shares of ownership of jointly owned property.

The test now adopted is as follows:

  • The starting point is the legal ownership of the property – for joint owners this will be that the property is held in equal shares, for sole owners that it is their sole property
  • However, this can be overridden if there is evidence of a common intention of the parties either at the time of purchase or subsequently to change this
  • That “common intention” will be inferred from the parties’ conduct and dealings
  • Where it is found that there is clear evidence that there was a different intention as to ownership but no clear evidence as to what the shares of ownership should be, the court will decide what is fair given the whole course of dealing between the parties in relation to the property

Quite what the outcome will be in any case is therefore extremely difficult to predict. Cohabiting couples should consider entering into a cohabitation agreement to properly define the shares of ownership.  Such agreements can deal with:

  • Existing and future property
  • Inheritance
  • Gifts
  • Business interests
  • Debts
  • Bank accounts
  • And much more

For more information on the above contact our Family Law Solicitors Altrincham on 0845 0738 445 or email

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