Cohabitation Agreements

When unmarried couples choose to live together, they are often unaware that the law, upon separation, does not provide for them financially in the same way that it does for married couples and civil partners. What is frequently referred to as "common law marriage" is in reality, a myth.

By entering into a Cohabitation Agreement, an unmarried partner can seek to create legal obligations which then afford both parties financial protection in the unfortunate event of separation. A Cohabitation Agreement sets out who owns what, in what proportion and allows you, and your partner, to document how to split a property, its contents, savings, and other assets should the relationship break down. It can also cover how any dependent children will be supported, as well as allow you to decide how you would deal with bank accounts, debts, and joint purchases, such as cars. The agreement can also be used to set out how you and your partner will manage day-to-day finances while you live together.

Before arranging to see a Solicitor, couples should agree on what they want from the agreement in terms of who owns what and how their assets should be divided in the event of a split. We recommend that one partner has their Solicitor draw up the agreement and get a copy sent to the other partner who would get their own Solicitor to go through it. Once both partners are satisfied with the agreement, the document is signed and witnessed.

If a cohabiting couple doesn't have an agreement in place, in the unfortunate event of separation, they don't have the same rights as married couples - this is regardless of the number of years they have been together and whether they have children. Even if the couple jointly own a home, it will be split 50:50 between them without consideration of how much they each contributed. Cohabitation agreements are generally not legally binding, save that they may indicate an express agreement in relation to the ownership of things. A deed of trust is still essential so far as the house is concerned.

A cohabitation agreement is also not binding on a court or one another so far as arrangements for children are concerned. While it may be helpful to have something in place in that the other person might feel more obliged to be fair, a court will just look at what is right for the children at that particular point in time and will not care what the parties agreed between then potentially years previously.

While it may be 'unromantic' to think about the possibility of separation, if it was to happen and you were left in a worse, or unfair, financial position compared to your ex-partner, contesting the division of assets can cost an enormous amount of money to fight out in court.

If you want more advice about Cohabitation Agreements, please feel free to speak to one of our Family Lawyers by calling 01603 620508 or emailing us using the enquiry form.

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