Niche cohabitation law firm aims to fill “gap in market”

Unique niche: Emily Roskilly (l) and Lucia Mills

A law firm has been launched in Bristol specialising solely in advising cohabiting couples on their relationships and on contentious probate matters.

Emily Roskilly said she and Lucia Mills, co-founders of Roskilly & Mills, had seen a “gap in the market” .

Ms Roskilly said that the pair were not family lawyers, “did not touch” divorces, nor advice on finances on divorce or disputes about children, and did not offer wills or conveyancing.

Instead, they specialised in cohabitation work, where disputes involved civil and not family law, and was based on the Civil Procedure Rules, which most family lawyers found “terrifying”.

Ms Roskilly went on: “The approach, the courts and the rules are different for this kind of work. . Some family lawyers will advise clients in these matters but may not have the necessary experience in this specialist area when the matter becomes disputed, as civil law would then apply.”

She said the law firm aimed to help people “at every stage” of their cohabitation journey. She recently advised a female cohabitee whose partner had died intestate after a long relationship, with the result that everything went to his daughters.

Ms Roskilly said her client was able to claim for reasonable financial provision under the Inheritance (Family and Dependants) Act 1975.

She previously worked for VWV (Veale Wasbrough Vizards) in Bristol, while Ms Mills had specialised in work for cohabitees as a partner at Wards in Bristol, having realised that there was a market for it.

Where relationships broke down, and one cohabitee was left with nothing despite contributing to mortgages or home improvements, trust law could be used to establish that they had a beneficial interest.

Roskilly & Mills opened for business last month, operating from an office in Bristol as a trading name of another niche law firm, Cardiff sport immigration law specialist Newfields Law.

However, Ms Roskilly said her firm had its own clients, branding and website, and could in time incorporate as a separate business.

One of their aims was to collaborate with other related businesses, such as separate coaches, financial planners and parenting coaches.

Ms Mills said co-operation with other law firms was also important, and Roskilly & Mills had already referred people to other law firms.

Both lawyers said they backed law reform for cohabiting couples, which was promised by the government but not acted on. But even if the law was reformed, it would still most likely be different from the law for married couples.

Ms Mills said the proportion of cohabiting couples in the UK had grown from 20.6% in 2011 to 24.3% in 2021.

However, there was still a lack of knowledge among cohabiting couples about their rights, with up to a half still believing that ‘common law marriage’ existed.

Ms Roskilly said: “We both saw a gap in the market. Clients should have more of a choice. They don’t have to go to the big firms for this kind of specialist advice.”

She added that the firm does not have matter-related hours targets. “By stripping things right back we can give time to those who just need a steer and support them at a difficult time in their lives. Our focus is on our client.”

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