Cohabitation Agreements: What Are They and Who Needs One

 

Cohabitation Agreements: What Are They and Who Needs One

Young couple moving in together. Man and woman carrying a box.

If you are thinking of moving in with a partner, there are likely to be quite a few entries on your to-do list.

However, before you decide what furniture you might need or who will be responsible for what, unmarried couples considering moving in together should prioritise making a cohabitation agreement.

The term ‘common-law marriage’ has long since been debunked. In England and Wales, common law marriage has no legal validity, and cohabiting couples in an intimate relationship enjoy no extra protection under the law.

However, cohabitation between couples continues to grow in popularity in the UK, increasing by around 144% between 1996 and 2021 from 1.5 million in 1996 to 3.6 million, with many still believing that they will be entitled to a division of assets on separation similar to those on divorce.

This is not the case. For unmarried couples living together, the only way to ensure certainty about the distribution of assets and finances should the relationship change or come to an end is by entering into a cohabitation agreement.

In this blog, our specialist Family Solicitors answer some frequently asked questions about cohabitation agreements.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement (sometimes known as a ‘living together agreement’) is a legal document made between couples who live together that sets out arrangements for finances, property and children if the relationship ends.

Both same-sex and heterosexual couples can make a cohabitation agreement, which can be reviewed and updated as often as required.

Who needs a cohabitation agreement?

Unmarried couples who are living together should make a cohabitation agreement.

Cohabitation agreements can also be made between people who are living together but not in a romantic relationship, such as flatmates or siblings. They can be helpful in dividing up bills and other responsibilities while you are cohabiting.

What are the benefits of a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement gives you peace of mind and protection should the relationship end or circumstances change.

They allow you to ensure you fully understand your own and your partner’s financial commitments while you are living together by providing full disclosure of your rights and responsibilities.

Cohabitation agreements can help avoid disagreements and prevent difficulties if you and your partner separate by setting out exactly who is entitled to what should the relationship end.

For example, a cohabitation agreement can make sure you have:

  • A share of each other’s assets.
  • Access to each other’s state pension.
  • Next of kin rights in a medical emergency.

When should we make a cohabitation agreement?

Ideally, couples should make a cohabitation agreement before moving in together, so they are protected from the start.

However, you can make an agreement at any time and will benefit from the protection it provides as soon as it has been created.

What is included in a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement sets out who owns what and in what proportion.

Cohabitation agreements can include information about items such as:

  • Property that is already owned by either cohabitee. If one cohabitee owns an existing property, you might decide that the other partner should not have a claim over it.
  • Property bought whilst living together. A cohabitation agreement can specify what happens to any jointly owned property in the event of a separation.
  • Deposit on your home. If one of you puts in a larger deposit (or pays more of the mortgage), a clause that states they get back a larger share if you sell can be included.
  • Household bills. If one partner contributes more than another or you are not joint homeowners, a cohabitation agreement can include provisions for what will happen if circumstances change.
  • Wills and inheritance. Since you are not married or in a civil partnership, cohabiting couples have no automatic legal rights regarding inheritance.
  • What share of the mortgage or rent you will pay.
  • Bank accounts and money. A cohabitation agreement can state what happens to the proceeds of any individual and joint funds.
  • If you are cohabiting and split up, you are not automatically entitled to anything from your former partner’s pension.
  • Other assets, for example, cars and jewellery.

Every cohabitation agreement will be different as they are tailored to the needs of each couple.

Are cohabitation agreements legally binding?

Cohabitation agreements are legally binding if drafted and executed properly, and you have both been honest about your assets.

Specialist legal advice is therefore vital.

Our professional team of family lawyers at Bookers & Bolton has extensive experience drafting cohabitation agreements to ensure they fit your needs and guarantee you the highest level of protection possible.

If you are thinking of moving in with your partner, or you and your partner have recently started living together and want to shore up your relationship legally, please contact our experienced team to discuss your options. You can call us on 01420 558 295 or email enquiries@bookersandbolton.co.uk.

What happens to a cohabitation agreement if we get married?

Marriage or civil partnership does not automatically revoke a cohabitation agreement, and the courts may take it into account if you subsequently divorce or dissolve your civil partnership.

However, a better option would be to revise the agreement to specify what should happen if the marriage or civil partnership ends.

Alternatively, you could allow the cohabitation agreement to end and create a pre-nuptial agreement.

Cohabitation Agreement Solicitors Alton, Hampshire

Bookers & Bolton have been advising unmarried couples and families in Alton and Hampshire for many years about their rights, responsibilities, and entitlements when their relationship breaks down – especially where children are involved.

Our cohabitation solicitors have extensive experience drafting and negotiating cohabitation agreements and other related documents such as declarations of trust, pre-nuptial, or post-nuptial agreements.

We can also provide expert advice regarding all types of cohabitation disputes, especially those that involve the complexities and sensitivities where property and children are involved.

Our cohabitation law solicitors can ensure you fully understand your legal rights, guiding you through every aspect of your situation and finding the right solution. For cohabiting couples, a range of written documents can protect you and help minimise disputes if your relationship breaks down or one of you dies.

Our solicitors have the expertise you need to protect your rights, advising on documents such as:

  • Declarations of trust.
  • Cohabitation agreements.
  • Wills.
  • Lasting Powers of Attorney.

For more information on how we can help, please contact our Head of Family Law, Paul Wilson, on 01420 558 295 or complete a free online enquiry, and we will be in touch.

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