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Cohabitating couples. Is a cohabitation agreement a good idea? Cohabitating couples. Is a cohabitation agreement a good idea?

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Sep 19

Cohabitating couples. Is a cohabitation agreement a good idea?

Written by Claire Hunter
Solicitor

DDI: 01423 726620

E: claire.hunter@raworths.co.uk

If you are planning to live together (or already live together) a cohabitation agreement could help you manage your affairs if you were to separate from your partner.

People are often surprised when they realise that cohabitants do not have the same rights to make property claims as married couples or civil partners would. Currently, any dispute between cohabitants is handled within the complex laws of trusts. Likewise, cohabitees do not have the same rights under inheritance laws as married couples, creating justification for a valid Will to be drawn up.

What is a Cohabitation agreement?

The courts now recognise that many couples chose to live together outside of marriage or civil partnerships, so a cohabitation agreement can be used where the legal framework provided by marriage cannot.

A cohabitation agreement is a form of contract, setting out a couple’s preferences in the event of a relationship break down. Although not strictly legally binding, such agreements will be taken into account by the courts if both parties; enter into the agreement freely and voluntarily, have the benefit of independent legal advice and provide full financial disclosure.

How do I get a Cohabitation Agreement?

The first step is to discuss the relationship with your partner and what you would like to happen if you were to separate. This may sound daunting, particularly if you are just planning to move in together, but it is a practical step and could help avoid huge legal costs and financial heartache in trying to settle issues. Examples include:

  • Are you going to own or rent your property? Will the property be owned in equal shares or not?
  • Who is contributing to the property, either by mortgage payments or a lump sum towards the purchase price. What happens if the relationship ends?
  • How will bank accounts, savings, investments be distributed if the relationship is ended?
  • The care of any children of the parties.
  • If debts have built up during the relationship, what will happen to them?

The second step is to seek legal advice from a solicitor who will assist with drafting the agreement. It’s also important to remember to review the agreement periodically, particularly if there is a significant change in circumstances such as the birth of a child.

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