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What are the key legal issues to consider before moving in with a partner?

More and more couples are choosing to live together than ever before. Whilst there are many practical considerations to think about, such as where you might live or who will be responsible for household chores, there are also a number of legal considerations to take into account.

Living with your partner, known in legal terms as ‘cohabitation’ now carries certain rights and responsibilities under the law. However, you do not have the same rights as those couples who are married. This creates a unique situation with a number of things to think about. In this post, we outline some of the key things to consider when moving in with your partner

What you both own before living together

Moving in with your partner is an excellent chance to take stock of your assets. For many, you may be at the start of your career, not yet on the property ladder and with little in the way of savings. Even still, having a good outline of what you own as well as any debts or liabilities can help set you up for financial success as a cohabiting couple.

On the other hand, where you do have a number of assets such as savings, a business, property or anything else of value, you may wish to consider how you might protect this in cohabitation. While no one likes to think about relationship breakdown, it can be useful to have the security of your assets being protected should your relationship come to an end.

A cohabitation agreement allows you and your partner to set out how property and assets will be divided in the event of relationship breakdown. Setting up a cohabitation agreement is reasonably straightforward, and can help you and your partner move forward with confidence.


If you have children together, or with a former spouse, it is important to consider arrangements for your children both during cohabitation and if your relationship comes to an end.

There are a number of things to consider in relation to children including parental responsibilities, financial dependency, what happens if one of you is to pass away and also issues of inheritance.

Modern family structures can be complicated, so it may be useful to discuss any concerns you have with a family lawyer. They can advise you fully on your options. After all, when it comes to those most important to you, you need peace of mind that they will be taken care of.


Whether you have a will or not, moving in with your partner is an important time to review how you wish your assets to be distributed when you pass away.  At present, cohabitants do not have the same rights as married couples when it comes to inheritance.

You can make provision for your partner in your Will. It is also important to consider any children you have together, as well as any children you have from previous relationships. This can be a complicated part of Will drafting, however, a specialist solicitor will be able to advise you of the options available to you and your partner.


Changes to the law, introduced in April 2009, allow for your partner to be able to make a claim on your pension in the event of your death. However, to be able to do this you must have been living together for at least two years, and you must have completed a nomination form in favour of your cohabiting partner.

It is important that if you plan to live with your partner long term, you complete this form as it can make a significant difference to the quality of living of your partner and any children you have together.


If your relationship breaks down, what happens to your pets can be a point of emotional difficulty.

Under the law, pets are treated as property and so the person who bought the pet is the owner. Who the pet should live with can be addressed in a cohabitation agreement, which can save a lot of practical difficulty at what may be an emotionally difficult time.

Moving in together should be an exciting time and having your legal affairs in order is an important part of the process. If you are unsure of your rights and obligations under the law, you can speak to a family solicitor and they can advise you fully on the steps you can take to protect your interests and your family in cohabitation.

This article was provided by Family Law Cardiff

DISCLAIMER: This article should not be regarded as constituting legal advice in relation to particular circumstances and is merely a general comment on the relevant topic. If specific advice is required in connection with any of the matters covered, please speak to Family Law Cardiff  directly.

Published on 16th July 2019
(Last updated 7th May 2021)