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Cohabitants Rights

We recommend that cohabiting couples, or persons who intend to live together, enter into a Cohabitation Agreement to regulate various aspects of their relationship with each other.

Cohabitees should consider their own circumstances and the ownership of assets, such as a house, particularly where one person is contributing all, or a larger proportion of, any deposit for the purchase of the property.

The terms of the Agreement are open for negotiation between couples, and they are free to make such regulation of their affairs as they consider appropriate for themselves.

A Cohabitation Agreement can include the following provisions

  1. What is to happen to any jointly owned heritable property in the event that cohabitation ends in separation; for example is one party entitled to have the property transferred to them in return for a capital payment or is the property simply to be marketed for sale and the proceeds divided?
  2. What is to happen to any jointly owned heritable property in the even that cohabitation ends with death; and
  3. What is to happen to any moveable property owned jointly or separately in the event that cohabitation ends otherwise than by death.

A Cohabitation Agreement provides cost effective certainty surrounding what will happen in the unlikely event of a separation or death in intestacy. In the event that there is no Cohabitation Agreement in place, and a disagreement arises, litigation is the most likely alternative.

The Family Law (Scotland) Act 2006 sets out the rights which Cohabitants have for financial provision at the end of their relationship whether that be as a result of separation or death. Cohabitants can seek capital payments based on economic advantage or disadvantage as a result of their relationship and for a claim to be made in respect of the financial burden of looking after a child of the relationship. Such a claim must be made within 12 months of separation. Claims made following the death of an intestate cohabitant must be raised within 6 months of the date of death.

Our family lawyers are here to support and guide you through difficult times.

Family Law 
Frequently Asked Questions

What is family law?

Family Law is the umbrella term for legal matters relating to the family. It includes separation, divorce, child-related issues (including adoption), maintenance, division of assets and protective orders in cases of domestic violence. It also covers asset protection aspects such as Pre-Nuptial, Post-Nuptial and Cohabitation (or “Living Together”) Agreements.

Can you act for me if I’m outside Scotland?

We have clients from all parts of the UK, and across the world. The team has three dual qualified lawyers, who can advise on the law of England and Wales as well as the law of Scotland. We also have significant international experience. Our Head of Department, Philippa Cunniff, is one of only a handful of lawyers in Scotland who is a Fellow of the International Academy of Family Lawyers.

Do I need to have a ‘legal separation’?

Whether are not you are separated is a matter of fact – if you are no longer cohabiting as spouses/partners, you are separated. There is a legal process known as judicial separation, that is very rarely used. Most people talk about being ‘legally separated’ when they have a formal Separation Agreement regulating the issues arising out of their relationship breakdown.

Do I have any rights if I’m not married?

Since 2006, it has been possible for former cohabitants to make financial claims in the event of the relationship ending. Such claims are limited in scope and are subject to very strict time limits (at the time of writing, claims must be made within a year of the cohabitation ending). It is essential to seek expert advice at the earliest possible opportunity.

  • Anonymous

“I am tremendously grateful to you for all that you have done to get me to this point – both over the long period during which the Agreement was negotiated and at various difficult moments since then.  It is a huge relief to finally have this resolved, and your perspective and expertise have been absolutely indispensable.”

  • Pauline

“I wanted to thank you for encouraging a tasteful and diplomatic separation. It’s made a huge difference to an already difficult time.”

  • Lynn

“I just wanted to thank you for all that you have done to support Andrew and ourselves. Finally, we have the right outcome and the boys will have a more secure long term future.”

  • Anonymous

“I have always found Denise Laverty to be an exceptional lawyer… on the basis of her professional legal excellence.”

  • Family Law Testimonial

Firstly I want to say a heartfelt thank you for your support over the last few weeks. I’m aware that your first duty is to the court, but I could not have done what I needed to do recently without your calm and authoritative counsel. You gave me the freedom to make my own decisions. I’m also aware that you and your team worked extremely hard to prepare me for court at very short notice.

Family Law Team

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Philippa Cunniff

Partner, Head of Family Law

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Denise Laverty


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Sally Nash


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Shona Young

Senior Associate

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Sarah Feeney


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Alasdair Loudon