Living Together as Husband and Wife

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In Social Security Law in the United Kingdom a couple may be treated as Living Together as Husband and Wife even though not married. This has the effect that for means-tested benefits their resources are treated as held in common. There are also effects on benefits which depend on the claimant not having a partner.

Living together has been part of the law since the beginning of the modern welfare state in 1948. The term Living Together as Husband and Wife was introduced from 4.4.1977 and means the same as the phrase “cohabiting with a man as his wife” which was used before that date.[1]

To be regarded as Living Together as Husband and Wife - or as a couple of the same sex - there are six questions to consider. These questions have been repeatedly considered by the Social Security Commissioners and the higher courts. The question of cohabitation should take into consideration all the six questions, and looking at the relationship as a whole.

  1. Do the couple live in the same household?
    This means that the couple live at the same address, eat together and manage domestic jobs like washing, changing plugs and so on between them. If they share the same pot of jam (assuming they both like jam) then they are probably living in the same household. It is quite possible for two people to live in the same building and not share the same household. It can quite often happen when a marriage is breaking up that the two partners lead quite separate lives at the same address, and, in that case, they should be able to claim benefit separately. If one partner still has a home somewhere else where they pays bills and keeps their things, then they clearly don't live with the claimant.[2]
  2. Is this a stable relationship?
    A casual affair is not the same as a marriage.
  3. What happens to the money?
    If a couple share money this may be evidence that the relationship is like a husband and wife.
  4. Is there sex?
    Sex is an important part of living together as husband and wife. Staff are instructed not to ask about sex, but a claimant can volunteer information. If a couple do not have sex, and have no intention of doing so, then even if the relationship is very like a marriage in other ways they should not be treated as living together as husband and wife. People are not treated as Living Together as Husband and Wife if sexual intercourse between them, whether it actually takes place or not, would involve committing a criminal offence such as incest or sexual intercourse with an underage person.
  5. Are there children?
    If a couple have children together then it is hard to argue that they are not living together as husband and wife, unless it can be shown that the relationship has changed since they had the children.
  6. What do other people think?
    If people go out together in public as a couple, that is evidence that they are a couple. So would the woman taking the man’s name. But not doing these things does not necessarily show that you are not a couple.[3]


  1. ^ "Chapter 11 - Living together as husband and wife or as civil partners". Decision Maker's Guide. Department for Work & Pensions. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  2. ^ "If a benefits office believe you are living together...". Advice Now. Retrieved 1 January 2014. 
  3. ^ Welfare Benefits and Tax Credits Handbook. Child Poverty Action Group. 2013/4. ISBN 978 1 906076 73 3.  Check date values in: |date= (help)