Cohabitation agreements are made when a couple are not married but have chosen to live together. These agreements can offer legal protection, not unlike that of a married couple, with regards to money, property and also issues around children. These agreements are not limited to the time that you live together but can also set up an agreement for what happens if you were to split up.
How is a cohabitation agreement made?
Each partner will need to instruct an independent solicitor, however, at JMR Solicitors we always conduct these types of negotiations in a friendly and non-hostile manner. Negotiations can be dealt with either by way of correspondence or by face-to-face meetings with each party and their instructing solicitors in attendance.
What are the benefits of having a cohabitation agreement?
Having a cohabitation agreement in place will provide clarity and certainty should the relationship break down irretrievably. Unlike with divorce proceedings, any ownership, rights of occupation or other terms set out in the agreement cannot be revised by a court if the relationship ends. This means that the terms need to be agreed by both parties at the outset. The benefit of this is clarity for both parties as to what money, property or ownership will be theirs and the certainty that this cannot change and leave either party dissatisfied.
These agreements can be reviewed if both parties agree, for example, if a child is born, to make arrangements more suitable to major lifestyle changes. A cohabitation agreement can be made at any point of cohabitation, as long as both parties agree to it. However, having an agreement in place at the start of a cohabiting relationship can help to avoid any hostility and often long and expensive legal arguments should a separation occur without such an agreement.
Do cohabiting couples have the same rights as married people?
Cohabiting couples do not have the same rights as married people. Common law marriages do not exist. No matter how long the two of you have been living together, unless you enter a civil partnership or marriage, you will not have the same financial claims as married people.
What happens to our shared home if we separate without marriage?
How your home is shared after a separation between cohabiting couples depends on the ownership – is it jointly owned or is it owned by one party only?
If it is jointly owned property, then this will be simply split 50-50 if each owner has equal interest in the property.
If the property is owned by a single party from the cohabiting couple, then on separation, the one who legally owns the property will retain it. If this needs to be disputed, then the other party will need to make a claim under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996 (TOLATA). It is classed as a civil matter, rather than a family matter.
How are savings divided when cohabiting couples separate?
Usually, joint accounts mean both parties have equal claim to the money in there. However, savings or assets in your individual accounts will remain your own. This is because unmarried couples do not have the same financial rights as married people.
When is it the right time to draw up a cohabitation agreement?
You can draw up a cohabitation agreement any time – before moving in with your partner or even after a number of years living together. This agreement is better when reviewed from time to time, to ensure it is up to date.
What if we decide to marry – will the cohabitation agreement change?
- If you choose to get married, you can either change the cohabitation agreement to better portray your circumstances and outline what happens if the marriage breaks down.
- You might choose to end the agreement.
- Or you might decide to create a pre-nuptial agreement instead.