Whilst it might not be the most ideal or romantic subject to talk about, having a cohabitation agreement in place is essential for couples who are about to start living together.
As specialist unmarried couple lawyers, we are experts in advising on the preventative measures that you can take including Cohabitation Agreements, ensuring that you and your partner are not left vulnerable.
What are cohabitation agreements?
A Cohabitation Agreement is a document signed by a couple, which states the rights and responsibilities of each party in respect of property, savings, income, outgoings and ongoing financial obligations, both during the period of cohabitation and after it ends.
The Agreement will also deal with the practicalities of what would happen if the relationship breaks down or in the unfortunate event that one party dies.
In cases of dispute a properly drafted, signed and witnessed Cohabitation Agreement is almost always determinative of the arrangements between a separating unmarried couple.
Who is a Cohabitation Agreement for?
A Cohabitation Agreement is for any cohabiting unmarried couple who wish to have an agreement in place that formally records their wishes both during their relationship and on its breakdown. Individuals often use Cohabitation Agreements to protect assets like properties or businesses in their sole name.
Parties can enter into a Cohabitation Agreement at the time their cohabitation commences or can be drafted for couples who have been living together for years. Although it is sensible to have them in place at the outset.
Why is a Cohabitation Agreement important?
If you are not married or in a civil partnership you don’t have the same rights as a married couple even if you have been cohabiting for a certain number of years.
Significant legal costs can be incurred on the breakdown of a relationship in trying to determine what was intended at the time the cohabitation commenced when a dispute arises and there is no cohabitation agreement in place.
Without a cohabitation agreement in place you:
- Have no right to access or share in the money in your partner’s account.
- Are fully liable for any debt in joint names or your sole name. So if your partner stops making payments on a joint loan or a loan in your sole name which they agreed to pay or a mortgage, whether in your sole name or joint names, you remain liable for the full amount.
- Have no automatic right to the other party’s pension or life insurance policies if they die (under a cohabitation agreement, you/they can agree to provide for each other through pension rights).
- Could (if your partner owns the property) find yourself with no right to live there on your partner’s death.
How is a Cohabitation Agreement put together?
Initially we discuss your current situation and the areas a cohabitation agreement might cover like:
- how you pay rent, mortgage or household bills
- finances, for example what happens to joint bank accounts or pensions
- property and asset share – owned before or bought while living together
- future provision including nomination of pension and inheritance rights.
- arrangements for children
Pension access, property title deeds and wills are also important areas you should consider alongside a cohabitation agreement.
An agreement will then be drafted in the form of a deed. You both need to enter into it freely and voluntarily and each person needs to sign it.
It should then be kept up to date as your life changes for example if you buy more property, start a business or have children or think about getting married. When these life events happen you can speak with a solicitor to vary the cohabitation agreement.
Experienced specialist cohabitation lawyers on your side
Our dedicated unmarried couples’ legal team help couples and individuals to navigate the law. Whether drafting cohabitation agreements or representing them through disputes. The team acts for clients across the UK and internationally.