What Is A Cohabitation Agreement?

What Is A Cohabitation Agreement?

What Is A Cohabitation Agreement? – Unmarried cohabiting couples are the fastest growing family type in the UK.

However, many unmarried couples who live together are shocked to find they do not have the same legal rights over property, assets, and finances as married couples do.

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding document that sets out what will happen to the assets in the unfortunate event that the relationship breaks down. At Roper James, Teresa Cussen head up our Family Law department and you can find out more about here here.

This cohabitation agreement will be tailored to the specific needs of the couple but can cover a range of areas, including:

  • Mortgage, rent and utility bill payments
  • Joint bank accounts and pensions
  • Childcare arrangements
  • Pet ownership

A cohabitation agreement can be drawn up at any point throughout the relationship. Many couples instruct a solicitor before moving in together, whereas others opt for a cohabitation agreement after living together for many years.

The Benefits of a Cohabitation Agreement

Over the previous two decades, social standards have shifted dramatically. Whilst unwed couples sharing a home was previously frowned upon, it has now become the norm.

Therefore, many couples (both heterosexual and same-sex) decide upon a legal cohabitation agreement to secure their finances.

Cohabitation agreements are drafted bespoke to the needs of each couple, meaning that assets are not always necessarily split equally. For example, it might be the case that one party takes sole custody of the pets, whereas the other keeps 70% of the property.

Of course, all breakups are incredibly tricky and highly emotional. But, a cohabitation agreement can help remove some of the logistical stresses.

But What About Common Law Marriage?

Unfortunately, common law marriage is a myth.

Unmarried couples have no legal rights over the property owned by their partner. This is regardless of how long the pair have shared a home.

For example, partner A moves in with partner B. Partner B is the sole owner of the property’s title deeds. The couple stays together for 30 years and then separate. Partner A has no legal rights over that home, regardless of whether they lived there for three decades.

How to Make a Cohabitation Agreement

Cohabitation agreement templates can be readily found online.

However, many separating couples find that the agreement they believed was watertight is not legally binding. In the worst cases, one party can end up with no rights over any asset or money the couple had previously shared.

Therefore, seeking independent legal advice is always recommended. Your solicitor will request a range of personal details, which will include information around:

  • Both of your earnings
  • Current savings, in both personal and joint accounts
  • Any pension plans
  • Children or pets
  • Assets including cars and property

Frequently Asked Questions

What About Non-Romantic Couples?

It is not only romantically involved couples who form cohabitation agreements. They are regularly used by friends or siblings who live together.

What Is the Difference Between Cohabitation and Prenuptial Agreements?

A prenuptial agreement is an agreement entered into before a wedding or civil partnership. It will secure the assets of both parties, but can only be used when the wedding is booked and a date is confirmed. Conversely, a cohabitation agreement is aimed at couples who never intend to get married or have a civil partnership.

Can a Cohabitation Agreement Be Amended?

Yes, cohabitation agreements can be modified at any time throughout your relationship. Naturally, your circumstances will change periodically. Common reasons for amendment include the birth of children, serious ill health, and redundancy.

What Happens If One Of Us Dies?

Unmarried couples who live together should have both a cohabitation agreement and a will in place to ensure their assets are dealt with appropriately in the unfortunate event of their death. Whilst we appreciate this is not a pleasant scenario to consider, it is integral to ensure your partner is supported later in life.

How Roper James Can Help

Roper James are a dedicated team based in southwest England, with offices in Plymouth, Ivybridge and Cornwall. We cover a range of civil matters and are experts in family law. For any queries relating to your current family situation, please do not hesitate to contact enquiries@roperjames.co.uk or 01752 546448.

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