A cohabitation agreement is a legal agreement between a couple who live together but are not married or in a civil partnership.
With a rising number of couples choosing to live together rather than to marry, it is becoming increasingly common for couples to have a cohabitation agreement, sometimes known as a living together agreement, drawn up.
The rights as an individual who is cohabiting are very different from that of a married person. There are laws in place to provide legal protection and clarity for married couples, but no such laws apply to unmarried couples.
There is no such thing as common law marriage, or the rights of common law spouses. For example, if you live with your partner in their house and it is owned solely by them, you don’t necessarily have a legal interest in their property if you separate. A cohabitation agreement can help protect you.
At Woolley & Co, our cohabitation agreement solicitors nationwide can assist with:
- Whether a cohabitation agreement will be right for your circumstances
- The process for drawing up a cohabitation agreement
- Reviewing and amending an existing cohabitation agreement
Our clients come from across the UK and abroad. Offering a breadth and depth of knowledge, we can support with even the most challenging issues, including those involving complex financial arrangements. We can also advise on contentious issues and cohabitation disputes.
Speak to our expert solicitors about making a cohabitation agreement
To take advantage of a free 30-minute telephone appointment to discuss your situation and whether a cohabitation agreement would be right for you, call Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832 or complete our online form.
Our cohabitation agreement solicitors offer a detailed case assessment for £500 plus VAT. This will include an opportunity for you to discuss your case with an experienced cohabitation agreement lawyer and receive advice on your available options. You can find out more about this here.
What is a cohabitation agreement?
Cohabitation agreements/living together agreements are contracts signed by an unmarried couple who are living together or intend to live together.
The primary function of a cohabitation agreement is to clarify both parties’ rights and responsibilities in relation to their property, finances, and assets. A cohabitation agreement will record essential facts about the couple’s respective position, as well as what arrangements should be made if the relationship breaks down in the future.
In some cases, cohabitation agreements can also account for additional arrangements, such as those relating to any children in the relationship and how coparenting will work moving forward.
Cohabitation agreements in the UK are bespoke documents. The provisions a couple intends to make will be personal to their circumstances and what they would like to happen during and after cohabitation.
Why do I need a cohabitation agreement?
If you are setting up home with a partner and want to protect yourself financially should the relationship breakdown in the future, a cohabitation agreement is a good idea.
Couples choosing to live together do not have any of the protections offered by law to married couples. Cohabiting couples are therefore much more vulnerable on the break-up of the relationship or the death of one party. A cohabitation agreement can provide a measure of protection in these circumstances.
If you live with your partner in a house they own or rent in their sole name, and there’s no other agreement or understanding in place, you will have no automatic right to stay if they ask you to leave.
Whereas the Courts have power to deal with property rights on divorce, for unmarried couples they can only determine who owns the property and in what shares on the basis of actual contributions and/or their intentions.
The first consideration will be whose name is on the deeds of the property. If your name doesn’t appear, it starts to get complicated and certainly there are no automatic rights to stay in the property or to receive a share in the proceeds of a sale. It may be difficult to prove actual contributions and on separation the parties may not agree what their original intentions were.
If there’s no other agreement in place, your partner will walk away with all the savings and possessions in their name. Where you bought things together, but each contributed different amounts, you own in the shares in which you contributed, although this can be difficult to prove.
A cohabitation agreement/living together agreement might be particularly important for a couple buying a house together, running a business together or planning to have children together. If one of the parties has previously been married and divorced, they may wish to protect the assets which are in their sole name. In all instances, a cohabitation agreement can help.
What can you include in a cohabitation agreement?
A cohabitation agreement provides the framework for couples to record their intentions and record their respective contributions. The terms to be included in the agreement are a matter for the parties involved, however it is likely the agreement will include details about:
- Property owned before moving in together, especially if you plan to live together in that property and jointly pay the mortgage for example.
- Property or possessions you acquire after moving in together, whether you buy them together or individually, how do you consider them to be owned?
- Household expenses, who will pay for what?
- Children and how you will co-parent should the relationship end.
The agreement will need to be precise and detailed and confirm that the parties intend to create legal relations which will then ensure that the agreement is enforceable. When it comes to property the parties may be advised that a Deed of Trust be drafted which sets out the ownership and respective beneficial interests in the home.
Speak to our cohabitation agreement solicitors today
If you believe that a cohabitation agreement will be beneficial for your current circumstances, it is important that you understand the options available to you. This is something our cohabitation solicitors will be able to support you with.
To speak to our cohabitation solicitors during a free 30-minute consultation, call Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832 or complete our online form.
To take a closer look at your situation and the suitability of a cohabitation agreement, we can offer a detailed case assessment for £500 plus VAT. You can find out more about this here.
Are cohabitation agreements legally binding?
A cohabitation agreement in the UK will be legally binding provided it is drafted correctly, both parties take independent advice on the content, and it is signed as a deed.
It is essential both parties take legal advice, from a suitably qualified family lawyer, before agreeing the contents of a cohabitation agreement. It is also advisable to review your agreement if circumstances change dramatically, for example if you have children, receive a significant inheritance or financial windfall.
A cohabitation agreement/living together agreement is a good way to prevent disputes in the event that you separate from your partner. If you are in dispute with an unmarried partner this page containing useful Questions and Answers concerning Cohabitation Disputes might help.
What happens if one party stops abiding by the cohabitation agreement?
Once a cohabitation agreement is in place, it is not possible for one party to stop ‘abiding’ by the arrangements that have already been set.
As is the case with similar types of agreements, such as a prenup, cohabitation agreements only become relevant if a couple separates, setting out what will happen to their property, finances and assets.
The courts will uphold a cohabitation agreement so long as both parties obtained independent legal advice prior to signing, its terms are fair to both parties, and it accurately reflects their circumstances.
If you need any advice on the suitability of an existing cohabitation agreement, contact Woolley & Co at 0800 321 3832 or complete our online form.
How much does a cohabitation agreement cost?
The exact cost of drawing up a cohabitation agreement will likely vary depending on your requirements and how complex the arrangements you need to make are.
Prices for drawing up a cohabitation agreement with our expert cohabitation lawyers start at around £1,500 depending on the complexity of the agreement.
Does a cohabitation agreement still stand if you get married?
There can often be some confusion over whether a cohabitation agreement will still be valid after a couple gets married. Ultimately, whether or not this will be the case will depend on the terms of the cohabitation agreement.
If you would like to have provisions in place which account for your finances during a marriage, it may be in your best interests to convert your cohabitation agreement into a prenuptial agreement.
How does a cohabitation agreement differ from a prenuptial agreement?
Cohabitation agreements and prenuptial agreements are available to unmarried couples. While they both help to determine what will happen if the relationship breaks down, there are some important differences between the two that you should be aware of.
The primary difference is that prenuptial agreements are made for couples who are due to be married or are planning on being married at some point in the near future. Cohabitation agreements are better suited to couples who are living together and have no immediate plans to get married.
Additionally, cohabitation agreements are used to convey rights on cohabitees that are automatically afforded to couples upon marriage. Meanwhile, prenups are put in place to create a bespoke agreement that differs from what would ordinarily happen if a couple divorces.
Can you change the terms of an existing cohabitation agreement?
The terms of a cohabitation agreement are not set in stone, nor should they be. The circumstances of every couple are likely to change over time, which means that the cohabitation agreement should be reviewed and amended (if required) at regular intervals.
Important life events may also trigger the need to review and amend a cohabitation agreement. For example, having a child, one party increasing their salary, receiving inheritance, or one partner becoming ill could all justify the need to change the terms of an existing cohabitation agreement.
Can I create a DIY cohabitation agreement?
Online cohabitation agreement templates do exist, and many of the people we speak to ask if they would be able to prepare their own cohabitation agreement to make the process easier and save money.
This is unlikely to ever be the right solution. As cohabitation agreements are legal documents, it is essential that they are drafted in a particular way and that the terms of the agreement are tailored to your individual circumstances.
To be upheld in court, it is essential each partner has taken independent legal advice on the terms of the agreement.
Our cohabitation agreement solicitors are here for you
If you are considering creating a cohabitation agreement, or simply need further advice on how an agreement could work for you and your partner, our experienced solicitors will be on hand to lend their support and expertise.
To take advantage of a free 30-minute telephone appointment to discuss your situation, call Woolley & Co on 0800 321 3832 or complete our online form.
Our cohabitation agreement solicitors also offer a detailed case assessment for £500 plus VAT. This will include an opportunity for you to discuss your case with an experienced cohabitation agreement lawyer and receive advice on your available options. You can find out more about this here.