There is quite a marked difference to living together as a married couple and cohabiting, particularly when it comes to going your separate ways and working out what to do with a property.
A finance divorce settlement needs to be reached by not just married couples but any couples who have been sharing a home and living together as a couple.
What you need to know about cohabitation
Marriage is rightly viewed as a big commitment and when you tie the knot it automatically gives both of you a certain legal status, whereas cohabitation does not give you the same rights and responsibilities as being married.
It is therefore a good idea that you take the time to understand the legal position when it comes to cohabitation rights, so that you can protect your financial position if you separate.
Cohabitation does not automatically give you the rights to the home you share as you would enjoy if you were married.
If you move into your partners home to start living together and they already own that home, the property owner will remain as the only person with an entitlement to remain living there, so you would have to move out if that is a scenario that applies to your circumstances.
The partner who owns the property can also make important decisions such as deciding to sell the house, without requiring your consent to do so.
The situation is however not quite so cut and dried as it may first seem to be.
There are certain situations where you may have some rights, despite the fact that your partner is registered as the sole owner of the property you are living in.
It may be that as part of your decision to live together, you struck up an agreement in writing that the non-owner partner would be entitled to a share of the home. It may also have been agreed that if you contribute financially to the household bills, such as paying part of the mortgage, this could allow you some rights if you both agreed that this arrangement entitled you to a future share.
Other scenarios where you could be entitled to a share despite your lack of ownership, is if you acted to your own detriment when moving into the property, such as giving up a job on the understanding that you would be financially compensated in some way for this in the future.
It could also be that if you have children in the relationship, that a court might grant you the right to continue living at the property in order to ensure the welfare of the children.
There are a number of sometimes complicated legal issues associated with dividing the family home upon separation and it is often the best policy to seek some professional legal advice on your rights and options.
The break-up of a relationship and separation are challenging issues to deal with, but it certainly makes sense to know your rights if this happens to you.
Oscar Wilson is a life coach and counsellor. He likes to write about his insights on the web. His articles appear mostly on family websites.