What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

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As the number of cohabiting couples in the UK continues to increase, it is not surprising that cohabitation agreements are also growing in popularity. These agreements are legally binding and serve to establish clear expectations and boundaries for the duration of a relationship, eliminating the need for separate agreements for different situations. Rather, a single, comprehensive ‘living together agreement’ can cover all relevant aspects.

The financial aftermath of a breakup between unmarried partners can be a highly stressful and costly experience that often takes a significant amount of time. Unlike in a divorce, neither party will automatically inherit half of the shared assets. However, seeking legal counsel and establishing a well-crafted cohabitation agreement can mitigate many of these challenges. Discussing the possibility of a relationship break may be uncomfortable for some couples. However, doing so can ultimately save a significant amount of money and emotional distress in the long run.

Expert Family Law have a panel of family law solicitors with the experience and expertise required to assist you when drawing up a cohabitation agreement.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that sets out the rights and responsibilities of unmarried couples who are living together. It is a contract that helps to protect the interests of each partner in the event of a breakup, death, or any other unforeseen circumstance. Contradictory to popular opinion, there is no such thing as a common law marriage, and so a cohabitation agreement can enable unmarried couples to have things in place in case of a relationship breakdown.

This declaration of trust is particularly important for couples who are living together but are not married. This is because they do not have the same legal protections as married couples. Without a cohabitation agreement, disputes over property, finances, and other important matters could arise. This can lead to costly and time-consuming legal battles in the future.

A cohabitation agreement can cover a wide range of issues, such as property ownership, division of assets, debt management, financial support, and even custody arrangements for any children involved. It provides a clear and legally binding framework for both partners to follow, giving them greater certainty and peace of mind.

Overall, a cohabitation agreement is a valuable tool if you live together as a couple and want to protect your interests and avoid potential conflicts down the line.

What can be included in a cohabitation agreement?

While a cohabitation agreement can encompass a wide range of provisions, it is important to carefully consider the validity and enforceability of each term. Some elements that couples may choose to include in a cohabitation agreement are:

Property rights – If a couple buys a property together during their relationship, a cohabitation agreement can be highly beneficial. The agreement can encompass properties jointly held or by one party individually. The agreement should accurately reflect the ownership status of each property, for example if each party is a joint owner, as well as each party’s “beneficial interest,” or the entitlement to a share of the net sale proceeds.

This should be documented in the title deeds for the property via a deed of trust. Additionally, the agreement should address who is responsible to pay the mortgage, household bills, and any policies related to the mortgage. It should also include how these expenses will be handled in the event of separation.

Financial provision – It is important to contemplate whether setting up a joint bank account is appropriate, how contributions to the account will be divided, and how the balance in the account will be distributed in the event of separation. Similar consideration should also be given to savings.

It is common for pensions to be overlooked, but parties may want to designate their pension or death-in-service benefits for the benefit of their partner, subject to the rules of the pension scheme. However, it is worth noting that some pension schemes may not accept such designations.

Child arrangements – A cohabitation agreement can include provisions for the care of any children in the event of separation. However, it is important to recognise that the terms of the agreement may not be strictly enforced if the couple later goes to court. Although, the terms can offer valuable guidance and context in the event of a dispute.

Death – It is crucial to contemplate how assets will be handled following the death of a cohabiting partner. While provision can be made through a will, it is important to note that a claim can be made against the deceased’s estate under the Inheritance (Provision for Family and Dependants) Act 1975. Both life insurance policies and pensions can be designated to a surviving partner.

Personal possessions – It is common for personal belongings to be overlooked. However, it is important to consider ownership and division of items in the event of separation. In cases where one partner earns considerably more than the other, they may be better equipped to purchase new household items. Additionally, if one partner brings a valuable asset into the relationship, it is essential to contemplate how it will be handled in the event of separation.

Our panel

Our panel of friendly and professional lawyers have the expertise and experience to provide you with assistance when drawing up a cohabitation agreement. They will guide you through the process, helping you to make the difficult decisions in an understanding, non-judgmental manner.

Each solicitor we work with is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

If you are looking to get married or enter a civil partnership, our panel of solicitors and experienced family law firms can also help you to navigate a range of matters. This includes prenuptial agreements/pre civil partnership agreements, child arrangements and other family law matters.

Whether you are going through a separation or simply want to make plans for your future, our panel of family law solicitors are here to help if you are seeking independent legal advice and assistance. They can guide you through every step of the way. Get in touch today using the form at the top of the page to find out if a solicitor from our panel could help you today.


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