Family law
As social attitudes shift, an increasing number of couples in England and Wales are forgoing matrimony in favour of cohabitation. While the emotional dimensions of this choice are often at the forefront of discussion, the legal and financial nuances can be somewhat neglected. This article aims to shed light on the subject from the standpoint of family mediation, examining the benefits and disadvantages of cohabitation compared to marriage.

Benefits of Cohabitation


  • Cohabitation offers couples the flexibility to structure their relationship outside the legal framework of marriage.

Easier to Dissolve

  • Unlike divorce, ending a cohabiting relationship usually does not require legal intervention, thereby making the process quicker and less costly.

Financial Independence

  • Cohabiting partners are generally not legally obligated to support each other financially, offering a level of financial independence that married partners may not enjoy.

Disadvantages of Cohabitation

No Legal Protection

  • Cohabiting partners are not automatically entitled to property rights or financial support in the event of a breakup, unlike their married counterparts.

Child Arrangements

  • Child custody can become complex since cohabiting parents not always have the same default rights as married parents in legal disputes.


  • Without a legal framework, cohabiting relationships can introduce uncertainty, particularly in terms of inheritance, property rights, and financial responsibilities.

What to Consider Before Opting for Cohabitation


  • It's advisable to enter into a "living together" or cohabitation agreement, detailing the division of property and financial responsibilities.


  • Consider entering into a parental responsibility agreement to clarify child custody, schooling, and healthcare arrangements.


  • It's prudent to keep meticulous financial records and, if possible, keep finances separate to avoid disputes.

Family Mediation

  • In case of a breakup, consider engaging a family mediator to help negotiate child custody and financial issues. This is especially useful for cohabiting couples, as they lack the legal framework that usually guides such matters for married couples.


Choosing between cohabitation and marriage is not simply a romantic decision, but one that comes with important legal and financial implications. While cohabitation offers more flexibility, it also presents challenges that married couples may not face. Before making a decision, it's crucial to consider factors like property, children to make well-informed choices.

By understanding the complexities involved in both cohabitation and marriage, couples can better prepare for a harmonious future—regardless of the form their relationship takes.