The Benefits of a Cohabitation Agreement

According to the Office for National Statistics, cohabiting couple families are the second largest and fastest-growing family type, making up 18.4% of households.

While the law offers protection to married couples and those in a civil partnership, these do not extend to unmarried cohabitees. This applies whether you’re a couple, living with your relatives or sharing a property with friends. When things go wrong in a cohabiting relationship, the lack of a legal framework can lead to major financial and practical problems for all parties.

However, there is a way for cohabitees to create their own legally binding document in the form of a cohabitation agreement.

What does it cover?

A good cohabitation agreement is forward–thinking and anticipates the common issues that crop up when relationships change, for example, due to the breakdown of a relationship, illness or the loss of a job. It should cover things like:

  • How household bills, mortgage payments and rent are to be paid and who is responsible for which payments
  • Who owns a share in the property and in what proportion
  • The individual assets that each party brought into the relationship
  • What happens to joint financial assets or access to pensions in the event of problems
  • How any debts are to be dealt with
  • If there are children or pets to consider, what arrangements will be made for their care

Of course, every situation is unique, so your agreement can reflect any of the things you and the other parties think need to be addressed.

As mentioned, cohabitation agreements aren’t confined to couples in a romantic relationship. At a time when younger people find it harder to get onto the property ladder, many live with relatives or groups of friends in either rented or owned accommodation. A cohabitation agreement can be really useful in these circumstances, giving everyone clarity as to what will happen in the event of changes in the relationships or living arrangements.

Drafting and amending your agreement

Your solicitor will go through the document with you in detail and make sure you understand what you are agreeing to. Once all parties have agreed on the terms and signed on the dotted line, it is legally binding. It’s vital to make sure that the agreement is balanced and well-drafted however, as one that is deemed ‘unfair’ may not be enforceable.

Rather than being a static document, it’s important to update your cohabitation agreement to reflect any major changes in your situation. For example, if you currently rent and want to buy a property together or decide to have children. If a life decision or new circumstance could cause issues in the future should a relationship fall apart, it’s worth adding it to your agreement for peace of mind.

In addition to drawing up a cohabitation agreement, it’s also sensible to draft a will if you want to ensure that your cohabiting partner inherits your assets on your death. The law doesn’t bestow any rights on cohabiting partners if one of you should die intestate, so making a will is another important element in sorting out your affairs if you don’t wish to formalise your relationship by marriage or a civil partnership.

Ask our family law experts

Life is never certain, so it pays to plan for the worst-case scenario – particularly for cohabitees who are not afforded the same protections as married couples and civil partners. While a cohabitation agreement might not seem like the most romantic step to take in a relationship, it can prove to be a lifesaver should things go wrong in the future.

At Rowberry Morris, our family lawyers have years of experience in helping clients draw up agreements that protect their best interests whilst bringing reassurance and clarity. If you’re planning to move in with someone else or are already living with a person you’re not in a legally recognised relationship with, get in touch to find out how we can help you get your affairs in order.

The contents of this article are intended for general information purposes only and shall not be deemed to be, or constitute legal advice. We cannot accept responsibility for any loss as a result of acts or omissions taken in respect of this article.