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Legalities of Ending a Relationship with Somebody Live with

To end a cohabiting relationship no legal action is necessary.

However, there will probably be a number of issues to sort out with regard to children, property and money etc.

These arrangements can be made informally or through a more formal separation agreement. Alternatively you can ask the courts to make a decision for you.

Separation agreements

Things that could be included in a separation agreement are:

  • arrangements for who the children should live and have contact with
  • the payment of maintenance from one partner to the other (although there is no legal obligation to do this)
  • the payment of maintenance for any children of the relationship (although any agreement not to go through the courts or Child Maintenance Service is not legally binding)

It is best to consult a solicitor before drawing up a separation agreement.

Children and parental responsibility

Unmarried fathers will not automatically have parental responsibility, meaning they may not automatically have a say in their children’s future at the end of a relationship.

Fathers who were not married to their child’s mother when she gave birth will have parental responsibility if:

  • they registered (or re-registered) the birth with the mother (after 1 December 2003 only)
  • they entered into a parental responsibility agreement with the mother
  • they were granted parental responsibility by a court
  • they were appointed as a guardian of the child

Mothers automatically have parental responsibility.

It is best to come to an amicable agreement regarding the care of your children. If this proves difficult, then you can enlist a mediator to help you come to an agreement. Any decisions made with the help of a mediator will not be legally binding, however.

If this fails then you can ask the courts to make a decision on your behalf.

Agreeing on financial arrangements

Both parents are responsible for supporting their children financially, regardless of whether they both have parental responsibility. However, you do not need to pay maintenance to your former partner on the breakdown of a cohabitating relationship.

Arrangements for maintenance can be made by mutual agreement, through the Child Maintenance Service, or through the courts.

An arrangement made by mutual agreement can be made as a verbal agreement, or can be put into writing.  It is advisable to seek the advice of a solicitor and the agreement drawn up by them as a means to avoid disputes in future.

If your children are living with you after your relationship has ended and you have not made a mutual agreement with your partner, you can arrange child maintenance for your child through the Child Maintenance Service. For more information on arranging child maintenance this way, see our Child Maintenance page.

It is also possible to get the court to make an order for financial support of the child(ren), although you will usually be expected to have gone through a mediator first. An order can be made for a one-off lump sum payment or for regular payments. However, it is not possible to use the court to obtain an order for maintenance payments to either partner.

Rights to housing

A court may be able to grant you short-term rights to the home in which you and your partner were living before your relationship ended. This could be:

  • The right to stay in your home
  • The right to move back in if you moved out
  • The right to stop your partner entering the home

If children are involved then longer term arrangements may be able to be put in place.

You will usually need to meet with a mediator before applying for a housing order.


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