What is a Cohabitation Agreement?
If you plan on moving in with a partner but are not legally connected to them by marriage or civil partnership, a cohabitation agreement can help protect your assets, give clarity over your future financial security and set out your rights and responsibilities.
Many people fail to realise that they have no automatic legal right with regards to their partner’s property or other assets if they are not married or in a civil partnership. This can risk leaving people in a difficult financial situation if they ever separate.
Making a cohabitation agreement is especially important as it will help to protect any property or children involved, as well as helping to prevent disputes and the breakdown of the relationship.
Within this article, we will cover:
- What Does a Cohabitation Agreement Do?
- What are the Benefits of a Cohabitation Agreement?
- Is a Cohabitation Agreement Legally Binding?
- How do you Create a Cohabitation Agreement?
- How Much Does a Cohabitation Agreement Cost?
- Should you get a Cohabitation Agreement?
Looking for personal advice on a cohabitation agreement? Our cohabitation agreements solicitors will be happy to help.
What Does a Cohabitation Agreement Do?
A cohabitation agreement is a legal document between unmarried individuals who decide to live together. It outlines the obligations and legal rights of those involved if the couple separates, an individual becomes ill or in the event of a death.
The agreement can be made at any time but it is sensible to do it before a couple moves in together. This ensures the interests of both parties are protected from the very beginning.
The agreement can be tailored to meet the needs of each couple, but is commonly used to lay out arrangements regarding:
- Children and childcare arrangements
- Additional assets
You should always seek advice from an experienced legal expert before making a cohabitation agreement to ensure it meets your needs.
What are the Benefits of a Cohabitation Agreement?
It can be daunting to consider getting a cohabitation agreement, with many people believing that it implies that they don’t trust their partner.
However, by establishing clear expectations from the start and protecting both the assets and interests of all those involved, a cohabitation agreement can provide peace of mind and a secure foundation to progress the relationship.
There are many additional benefits of a cohabitation agreement, including:
- Providing the needed flexibility for individuals to organise their finances and protect their assets when entering into a new relationship
- Clearly setting out the legal rights of a couple regarding a property.
- Protecting the future of any children involved by establishing childcare arrangements and financial agreements ahead of time in the event of a separation
- Setting clear expectations to reduce the amount of future conflict
- Helping to reduce legal costs if a separation is necessary in the future
- Establishing an individual’s entitlement to savings and financial assets
Is a Cohabitation Agreement Legally Binding?
A cohabitation agreement, if it has been prepared correctly, is legally binding and is likely to be enforced by the court.
As long as both cohabitees are upfront and honest regarding their finances, and the agreement is intended to provide clarity regarding any property or finances involved, the cohabitation agreement is considered legally binding.
However, it is worth noting that a court may decide not to uphold an agreement if it is considered to be manifestly unfair to either party or does not account for any change in circumstances e.g. if you have had children since the agreement was made. A court will always prioritise the needs of children, so this must be taken into consideration.
How do you Create a Cohabitation Agreement?
If you would like to establish a cohabitation agreement when moving in with a partner, it is highly recommended that you speak to a cohabitation solicitor. They can draft an agreement that meets your needs and the requirements to be upheld by a court.
While it might be tempting to create your own cohabitation agreement using a DIY template, this is very risky and is not recommended. At the very least, you should seek the advice of a solicitor on any agreement you have drafted to make sure nothing has been overlooked and that it meets the required legal standard.
For a cohabitation agreement to be legally binding it must:
- Be set out in the form of a deed
- Have been entered voluntarily by both cohabitees
- Be signed by both parties
- Incorporate updates in the event of changes e.g. having children
How Much Does a Cohabitation Agreement Cost?
A cohabitation agreement will typically cost between £750 and £3,000, with the exact cost depending on the complexity of the case.
It is important to balance this one-off cost against the potential benefits. Ultimately, a cohabitation agreement can save you from losing out financially and/or dealing with the financial strain and emotional distress of dealing with matters in court.
Should you get a Cohabitation Agreement?
Choosing to invest in a cohabitation agreement is a highly personal decision. It depends on your unique circumstances and the complexity of your situation.
Situations where it is particularly sensible to have an agreement in place include where:
- One of you is living in a property the other owns
- You own a property together but have contributed different amounts to the deposit and/or mortgage payments
- There is a significant disparity in your relative wealth and/or income
- You have children together
- Either of you has children from a previous marriage
- There are any other issues you are concerned about that might arise during your relationship or if you separated
This is not an exhaustive list and we would always recommend seeking specialist advice when thinking about whether a cohabitation agreement is right for you.
Speak to us About Making a Cohabitation Agreement
If you are considering making a cohabitation agreement or have any other questions related to this issue, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Our expert cohabitation agreements solicitors will be only too happy to advise you.