What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement is a written, signed document which will generally deal with three principle areas:

  1. Who owns (and owes) what at the time of the agreement, and in what proportions.

  2. What financial arrangements you have decided to make while you are living together.

  3. How property, assets and income should be divided if you should split up.

Where the agreement is properly drawn up, the terms are reasonable and both parties have had separate independent legal advice on its effect, the Court is more likely to uphold the agreement in the event of a dispute.   It can also be wise to include provisions that address potential future events, e.g. the needs of any future children.

A Cohabitation Agreement can be made at any time whether you are about to start living together or if you have been doing so for many years.  I can assist you with this either as a family lawyer or alternatively as a Mediator.

As a Mediator I can help the two of you talk about the potential terms of the Cohabitation Agreement.

A Cohabitation Agreement is important because, unlike on divorce or civil partnership dissolution, there is no particular set of rules that automatically applies if you split up from someone you have been living with.  Contrary to popular belief there is no such thing as “common law marriage”.   Living with someone for a certain period of time does not mean that you are automatically entitled to some financial support or share of their property after you split up.

There have been proposals to change the law but this has not been put into effect at this time.  This means that where a couple have not been married or in a civil partnership, sorting out disputes about property without an agreement can be expensive, complicated and very time consuming.

Many couples find that the process of making a Cohabitation Agreement means that they have chance to think and talk about how living together is going to work financially, meaning that arguments about money are less likely later on.

As a general guide, you should consider the following if you want to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement.

1.Your shared home.

It is important to record how it is owned and whether there has been any separate agreement or promise that isn’t currently reflected in the legal document.

Who is paying the mortgage?  If there are any Endowment policies or other savings arrangements linked to a mortgage, what contributions are being made to those and how will they be dealt with if you split up.  Are you going to insure each other’s lives?

2. Money and paying bills.

Many people like to have a joint bank account but need to decide what contributions they are each going to make into the account.

3. Pensions.

This is often overlooked but pensions sometimes give you the opportunity to make provision for loved ones, for example, you may wish to nominate death in service benefits.

4. Personal Possessions.

You should consider who owns and/or will keep items such as furniture and cars.  It is amazing the huge amount of money that can be spent in legal proceedings potentially arguing about house contents.

5. Children.

Although it is not legally binding, it is worth while thinking about whether you are to make provision for any children over and above the minimum maintenance expected by the Child Support System in the even of your separation.  For example, you may wish to consider who will pay any School fees or University fees.

What to do afterwards? 

Once a Cohabitation Agreement has been put in place it is always worth bearing in mind that you may need to review it, for example if you move house, have children or your circumstances change dramatically.

You should also make a Will so that if you die while living with someone, you wishes can be put into effect.  In certain circumstances it is possible for a cohabitant to inherit but there are strict rules about what should happen and so it is very important that you make clear what you want.


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