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A guide to cohabitation agreements

Also known as a living together agreement, a cohabitation agreement can be made between unmarried couples to ensure both parties have a legal footing in the event of separation. The document details who owns what, how finances should be split, and what will happen should you break up.

For example, if you both buy a house together but one of you pays the mortgage and one of you pays the bills, a cohabitation agreement would give you both the right to the house in the event of a break-up, rather than just the person who is paying the mortgage.

Cohabitation agreements are widely used to help you discuss and agree on how things like rent, mortgage or bills will be paid, which helps you avoid future worries or arguments that could build up over time and cause future disagreements.

Why should you get one?

While no one likes to think their relationship will fail, the truth is some couples do break up. A cohabitation agreement could be viewed as a safety blanket, to protect you financially if things should go wrong.

Unfortunately, unmarried couples have no legal rights, and without a cohabitation agreement, many couples are left trying to make arrangements for their property, belongings and money whilst heartbroken and not necessarily in the best place to make decisions. Having an agreement in place means these decisions have already been made so the process is much simpler and less painful.

If you have been in a relationship for a long time, it may be hard to remember who paid for what without an agreement, and you may find that you both have very different ideas on what is fair and what should happen.

You could also use a cohabitation agreement throughout the relationship to remind yourselves of who pays for what, who owns what etc. just in case you need to make decisions surrounding this.

When should you make one?

There is no right or wrong time to draw up a cohabitation agreement, it is entirely up to you as a couple. The ideal time would be when you first move in together, or once you’ve had children, or maybe when you have made the decision not to get married.

It is better late than never, so even if you have lived together for a number of years and you find your relationship to be stable and solid, it is worth getting an agreement put in place to protect you both. Like with a Will, many put off making one, but it is always better to have it in place.

What should you include?

You should seek legal advice before making a cohabitation agreement, but there are a number of things you can prepare yourselves, such as:

  • Date of the agreement.
  • Both names and addresses of those cohabiting.
  • Honesty over finances: including income, capital, and debts.
  • Information on any children involved.
  • Who owns the house / how it will be divided (or how much rent will be paid).
  • Who pays the bills / what share is paid by each party.
  • Monthly payments to any joint bank accounts you may hold.
  • Savings – who gets what?
  • Ownership of contents and personal possessions.
  • Cars - who do they belong to / who pays for them?
  • Pensions.
  • Any renegotiations i.e. if it will change should you have another child.
  • Ending the agreement/ how you will transition (i.e. will you be required to continue paying bills?).
  • Signature

Is it legally binding?

If written as a formal legal deed, by having it signed in the presence of witnesses, then cohabitation agreements are legally binding. A court will usually follow what you have set out in the agreement, as long as it is fair and both parties were honest about finances when the agreement was made.

You will increase your chances of a court upholding the agreement if you both seek separate legal advice before signing the agreement. You will also need to seek legal advice if you wish to make it a form of a deed, so that it is legally binding.

Our solicitors can help you get the best advice you need, and can help you put together a cohabitation agreement, whether as a formal deed or not. Get in touch today on 0808 256 1823 or fill out our enquiry form.