Cohabitation agreements

The law states that unmarried couples whose children have been born since December 2003 automatically have joint parental responsibility, provided that they are both registered on the child’s birth certificate. Other than that, the concept of common-law marriage is somewhat of a myth, meaning that when cohabitees split up, the distribution of property and assets can be a legal minefield.

If you are cohabiting, or thinking of doing so, you may wish to consider a cohabitation agreement to protect your interests in the unfortunate event of the relationship breaking down in the years to come. You can also set down agreements as to who contributes what to living expenses and the like.

We will help you to plan for the future distribution of property and assets held prior to the start of the relationship, as well as advising on wills and inheritance matters. Where there are children involved, we can advise on putting property in trust and making appropriate financial provision.

A well-constructed cohabitation agreement drafted by one of our Family lawyers allows couples a degree of self-regulation in their financial affairs and can be viewed as a form of insurance against costly litigation.

Phone us on 01843 234000 or email us to discuss any questions that you may have about cohabitation agreements.

If you would like general information about cohabitation and your rights if your relationship breaks down, see our guide to divorce, dissolution and separation.

Cohabitation agreement frequently asked questions

Do you need a solicitor for a cohabitation agreement?
Couples can write their own cohabitation agreements if they wish. However, it is not advisable that they do so without the support of a solicitor. Creating a cohabitation agreement without the assistance of a lawyer means that a couple could be entering into an agreement which does not serve them or reflect their needs.

Are cohabitation agreements legally binding?
Cohabitation agreements are a type of contract and can be considered by a court if a separating couple are having financial disputes. Regardless, how far the agreement is referenced in court depends on the conditions under which it was made. For instance, the agreement is more likely to be considered by a court if both parties have sorted out legal assistance and if both individuals have fully disclosed their financial situation prior to making the agreement.

What are the benefits of a cohabitation agreement?
Having a well-drafted cohabitation agreement in place is useful for establishing each individual’s rights and obligations to property and assets. The document can potentially lessen the chances of future disagreements or expensive litigation. A living together agreement can support couples in arranging their financial affairs to avoid financial setbacks if the relationship breaks down.

What are a cohabitee’s legal rights if their partner passes away?
If one of the cohabiting partners dies without a Will, the living partner will not inherit any assets automatically unless the couple owned a joint property. For this reason, it’s important that unmarried couples draft a Will if they’d like to leave property, assets or money to their partner.