Why Cohabitation Agreements are essential for non-married couples

What is a cohabitation agreement and do I need one?

You may not have even heard of cohabitation agreements before. But if you are living with or thinking of moving in with your partner, maybe to take your relationship to the next stage or to test the waters before you take the plunge and get married, then you should definitely consider a cohabitation agreement.

And as unmarried couples have doubled since the mid 1990’s to over three million, cohabitation agreements affect more people than ever.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document that outlines who owns what and what percentage of it in your relationship . This covers property, cars, possessions and savings. If your relationship was to break down in the future, the cohabitation agreement lets you determine ahead of time how everything would be split up if it came to it.

The agreement also allows you to set out how you would provide for your children over and above the legal parental responsibilities that you each have. It can also include how you both propose to deal with joint purchases such as a car, any debts and bank accounts.

The cohabitation agreement may also state who will be responsible for paying what during your relationship. So who will pay each bill, or what proportion of each bill etc.

Don’t you think it’s a bit unromantic?

Maybe so, but it is important to agree from the outset who will pay for certain things. This will take the pressure off financial and emotional disagreements that could arise in the future, as both partners would be clear on what would be expected from each other.

What are cohabitation agreements?

What happens if I don’t have a cohabitation agreement?

If you own a property jointly but don’t have a cohabitation agreement in place, then if you were to separate, your property would be divided as per the terms in which you bought it. If you did not specify any specific terms to safeguard perhaps a larger capital investment, then it would be divided 50/50. This is regardless of whether one person paid the deposit or paid a higher amount or the mortgage or bills each month.

So to protect your own assets and money that you have put into your property, it is advisable to put a cohabitation agreement in place, just in case the worst was to happen.

Is it legally binding?

The court would most certainly be guided by this contract in the event of a dispute if it is properly effected. This would mean that both parties sought independent legal advice on the agreement. If that is the case, then a judge is highly likely to force you both to remain bound by the terms of the agreement. The reason for seeking separate advice is that it eliminates the possibility of one partner saying they felt coerced or pressured into signing the agreement by their partner.

Is there anything else I should do?

Yes, you should consider making a will. If you die intestate (without a will) then all of your assets will be left to your next of kin, which will likely be your child or your parents but certainly not your partner as you are not married.

For more information, please visit our family law pages here.

Or give us a call and speak to one of our specialist advisors on 0800 614 722.