A cohabitation agreement is a legal document between unmarried couples who are living together or are planning to. It sets out arrangements for finances, property and children. It can deal with the arrangements whilst you are living together as well as if you separate, become ill or die.
On separation cohabiting couples do not automatically have rights like married couples no matter how long they have been living together. People frequently believe that if they have cohabited for a lengthy period they become “common law husband and wife” and acquire similar rights to a married spouse. This is a myth.
You can make an agreement at any time, but it is sensible to do it before you start living together. You may however decide to enter into a cohabitation agreement when your circumstances change such as when you have a child.
An agreement can deal with issues such as making sure you have a share of each other’s assets, care of children, next of kin rights in an emergency and access to each other’s state pension. Living together without being married or in a civil partnership does not provide you with many rights around finances, property or children. For example, if a property is held in one person’s name the other will not usually have any rights to the property if the relationship breaks down except in limited circumstances and trying to prove you have an interest is often difficult and expensive.
Entering into a cohabitation agreement can provide certainty should the relationship end. The cost of preparing an agreement will vary depending on your circumstances and the detail required but your legal fees will most certainly exceed this if something goes wrong and you do not have an agreement.
A solicitor will need full details of all assets held by both parties to a cohabitation agreement and evidence of the same, so it is useful to gather all relevant documents before seeing a solicitor.
Both parties should obtain separate legal advice on the agreement.
A cohabitation agreement should not take long to prepare and can be completed in a matter of weeks.
You may need to also make a Will to cover the position if one of you dies.
If you would like advice regarding making a cohabitation agreement, please contact Alison Hall in our family team on 01689 887887.