Ask a solicitor: Do I need a cohabitation agreement?

Young happy real estate agent giving house keys to a couple who is buying a new home.

An increasing number of couples are choosing to live together before marriage - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Have you ever asked yourself what would happen to your savings, home, and children if your relationship ended?

An increasing number of couples are choosing to live together before marriage or choose to never have their relationship legally recognised (by marriage or a civil partnership). However, unmarried couples are not legally protected in the same way that a married couple is if their relationship breaks down.

Black and white photo of Amanda Maruca, partner in family law at Spire Solicitors in Norwich

Amanda Maruca, partner in family law at Spire Solicitors - Credit: Spire Solicitors

What is a cohabitation agreement?
A cohabitation agreement sets out the ownership of your existing assets, including your home, what your financial responsibilities are, and how savings will be distributed, should you decide to end your relationship.

Why should I enter into a cohabitation agreement?
Entering into a cohabitation agreement can give you and your partner peace of mind that if your relationship comes to an end, you both know who gets what. It gives each party a clear understanding of what their financial commitments are.

Young african woman holding home keys while hugging boyfriend in their new apartment after buying re

Entering into a cohabitation agreement can give you and your partner peace of mind that if your relationship comes to an end - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

It can prevent disputes and emotional distress, which is especially important where children are involved, as both parties know what they will walk away with. If you do not have an agreement in place and the relationship ends, you will be left to organise the division of assets during an already challenging and sensitive time.

A cohabitation agreement will protect both parties in the event of a relationship breakdown. It can be reviewed and amended to ensure up to date protection of the couple’s assets and money.

Young man feeling sad after arguing with his girlfriend on sofa at home.

The contents of a cohabitation agreement will depend on your personal circumstances - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

What should be included in a cohabitation agreement?
The contents of a cohabitation agreement will depend on your individual circumstances. Here are a few key elements that you may wish to include:

  • Property
  • Household bills
  • Bank accounts and money
  • Assets such as furniture and cars
  • Payment of debts
  • Mortgage payments
  • Pets

Our highly experienced and friendly team can advise you on the contents of your cohabitation agreement to ensure your best interests are protected. Both parties must seek independent legal advice to ensure they understand what the agreement covers.

What is the difference between a marriage/civil partnership and cohabitation?
The law does not recognise a relationship in a meaningful way unless the couple is married or has entered into a civil partnership.

If a married couple divorced or there is a dissolution of a civil partnership, both partners can make a claim for a share of the assets and possibly maintenance. These rights are not extended to couples that are cohabiting, regardless of how long they have been together or if they have any children.

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Currently, the only way for couples to gain legal protection in the event of a breakdown is to be married, in a civil partnership or to have entered into a cohabitation agreement.

If you are considering entering into a cohabitation agreement and do not yet have a will, this may also be something you wish to consider. If you are not married or in a civil partnership, you will not automatically inherit each other’s assets – this needs to be written into a will.

Male and female hands tearing a red heart symbol of love in half

Currently, the only way for couples to gain legal protection in the event of a breakdown is to be married, in a civil partnership or to have entered into a cohabitation agreement - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

How do I make a cohabitation agreement?
Our vastly experienced family team have helped many couples to draw up agreements that are individually tailored to their specific requirements.

They pride themselves on ensuring that your best interests are protected if you were to end your relationship and to provide peace of mind for whatever your future holds.

If you would like to discuss any points in this article further or are looking for legal advice relating to cohabitation agreements or wills, please contact Spire Solicitors LLP on 01603 677077.

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