The term cohabiting refers to a couple who live together outside of marriage or civil partnership. When relationships reach a crisis or end between cohabiting couples, this is often when legal advice is sought and it can be a difficult time, particularly when children, property and finances are involved. Our blog answers common questions that arise when cohabiting couples go their separate ways and addresses the rights of cohabiting couples in Northern Ireland.


We have been living together for numerous years. Do I have the right to remain living in the house?

No. You do not have the right to live in your partner’s property unless the property owner permits you to do so. The property belongs to the registered owner and will not be transferred to your sole name during the breakdown of a cohabiting relationship. Transfer of ownership of a property may only occur during a divorce or dissolution of a civil partnership. If you jointly own the house as a cohabiting couple and you have a joint mortgage, you are both liable for the mortgage until it is fully repaid. Should the property have been purchased jointly, either partner can insist it is sold and proceeds divided. Please seek legal advice surrounding this.


Does living together for many years earn the title of ‘Common Law Wife’ or ‘Partner’?

No. It is a misconception that long-term partners have the same level of protection afforded to them as a married couple.


Cohabitation Contracts

Although there is no legal definition for living together, there may be options for cohabitation contracts that outline the rights and obligations towards each other. This should include a declaration of trust, which is a legal agreement on how you share your property.


What about the creation of a will for cohabiting couples?

 If one partner dies without leaving a will, the surviving partner will not automatically inherit anything unless the couple jointly owns a property. It is vitally important that you make a will if you are unmarried and wish to ensure your partner inherits.


Domestic violence within a cohabiting relationship

If you are suffering domestic violence within your relationship, you have the right to a court order to protect yourself and your children. The court can order the violent partner to leave the home for some time. Cohabiting couples can separate without the intervention of a court. However, with regards to the care of children, the court can intervene.


For further legal advice on the rights of cohabiting couples in Northern Ireland please contact us on 028 9038 1024 or email