What is Cohabitation Agreement
A Cohabitation Agreement, also known as a relationship agreement or a living together agreement, is a written contract between two individuals who live together and are in an intimate relationship, but are not married or registered civil partners. This agreement outlines how the couple will divide their current assets and liabilities if they end their committed relationship with each other.
Couples who cohabit do not have the same legal rights as married couples or registered civil partners, but they may share the financial obligations of a residential property or guardianship over children. However, without the same legal rights as a married couple, a cohabiting couple that breaks up must work harder to prove any entitlements. A Cohabitation Agreement helps protect the interests of people in committed, long-term relationships if their relationship ends.
When do I need a Cohabitation Agreement?
It is advisable to create a Cohabitation Agreement when both parties are on good terms and can make decisions that are in their best interests without needing a third party to intervene. Approaching the contract with positive intentions makes it easier to discuss the awkward subject of separation. It is also recommended to review and update the document every few years to ensure it continues to reflect your current wishes.
The link above provides a Cohabitation Agreement template that can be used if both parties agree on the terms. The template requires information on the start date of cohabitation, shared and separate assets and debts, as well as children if applicable.
It is important to note that courts often require each party in a Cohabitation Agreement to seek independent legal advice when drafting the contract for it to be valid. However, using this Cohabitation Agreement template can save time and money spent on a lawyer. Both parties must sign the agreement appropriately, generally with at least one or two witnesses.
What should I include in a Cohabitation Agreement?
A Cohabitation Agreement is a customizable legal document that should include certain fundamental elements, tailored to the couple signing it.
One essential aspect that a cohabitation agreement should include is the ownership of any property owned by one partner before cohabiting. This confirmation will ensure that the other partner cannot make a claim over it.
Additionally, if a couple purchases property together, a cohabitation agreement can record their respective beneficial ownership of the property and the proportion of the property each partner is entitled to, even if only one partner’s name is on the agreement.
Household bills and joint accounts, including how they will be managed in case of a relationship breakdown, can also be outlined in the agreement.
Although not technically a part of the cohabitation agreement, it’s crucial to recognize the importance of having a will when cohabiting but unmarried, as unmarried couples do not automatically inherit each other’s estate if one partner passes away without a will.
Lastly, seeking independent legal advice before signing the agreement is essential for it to be legally binding, and it can increase the chances of it being upheld should it reach the court in case of a relationship breakdown.
What if an unmarried couple separate? Who retains the rights?
When an unmarried couple separates, the person whose name is on the property title or tenancy agreement usually retains property rights. However, a Cohabitation Agreement can help determine property ownership upon separation by outlining shared interests and entitlements to any property gained during the relationship. The agreement may also specify separate assets or liabilities. If the couple breaks up, authorities will enforce the agreement rather than using statutes or case law to determine ownership.
What about in the event of death?
In the event of a partner’s death, cohabiting couples without certain legal documents have no automatic entitlements to a share of their partner’s property. If the couple owns property as joint tenants and one partner dies, their share goes to the remaining owner. If they are tenants-in-common, the partner’s share will count towards their estate, and property rights will be distributed according to law. A valid Last Will and Testament designating property rights and inheritances to a specific person will be recognized and enforced by courts, regardless of the deceased’s legal relationship status. Without a Last Will, a Cohabitation Agreement can serve as evidence to support a claim for an award from the deceased partner’s estate.
Cohabitation and child support
Cohabitation can have an impact on child support. While a Cohabitation Agreement can’t determine future child arrangements, it’s important to consider parental responsibilities when drafting the document.
If someone has parental responsibility for a child, they are legally responsible for meeting the child’s financial, legal, and familial needs. However, an unmarried father doesn’t automatically gain parental responsibility like a child’s birth mother does.
If you are considering a Cohabitation Agreement and have children from a previous relationship, it’s essential to decide if both partners want to claim parental responsibility, including legal adoption. These choices can affect future child arrangements.
When cohabiting parents separate, they need to agree on child arrangements. If they can’t reach an agreement, the couple may have to go to court to settle issues related to child support, custody, and access. In such a scenario, a cohabiting father who doesn’t already have parental responsibility can apply for it.
How much does a Cohabitation Agreement cost?
A cohabitation agreement may fluctuate based on the intricacy of the couple’s situation. One partner’s solicitor usually manages the procedure, including the initial meeting, drafting the document, making adjustments, and ultimately ratifying it. While one solicitor may give legal advice to one party, the other party may have to pay for their own, independent legal advice on the agreement.
Hourly rates are charged by some solicitors, while others provide a flat rate. The fees can vary from £750 to £3,000, plus an additional £500 for independent legal advice from a second solicitor. The costs will vary based on the complexity of the couple’s circumstances.
While the expense of a cohabitation agreement may appear costly to some, it is small compared to the cost of resolving issues in court, where costs can quickly reach tens of thousands of pounds.
You can also create your own agreement by using the form builder below.
Getting a Cohabitation Agreement is essential for couples who are in a serious and committed relationship but aren’t legally married as it provides legal protections.
When couples decide to live together and share their finances, they can save money and enjoy the benefits of a shared kinship. However, if the relationship ends, having a written agreement on how to divide shared assets and liabilities can protect the individual interests of both parties.