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Cohabitation Agreements

Couples who choose to live together have far fewer rights than married couples in the event that they separate. The idea of a common law marriage is a myth, and the courts have very limited powers to deal with financial matters or property ownership on separation when a couple are unmarried.

Surveys indicate that around 50% of British people mistakenly believe that couples who live together have the same rights as married couples. There are approximately 3.4 million cohabiting couples in the UK, so cohabitation law affects a growing number of families.

By way of example, if you are not married:

  • You have no right to maintenance (except child maintenance) if you separate
  • You have no automatic right to stay in your home if it is in your partner’s sole name unless you have made an agreement in respect of this
  • You have no automatic right to stay in your rented home if the tenancy is in your partner’s sole name
  • If your partner has not made a Will, you will not automatically inherit anything from their estate, and you could be required to leave your home if it was owned or partly owned by them
  • If you inherit more than £325,000 from your partner’s estate, you will be required to pay Inheritance Tax (a spouse would inherit free of Inheritance Tax)

By taking legal advice, it is possible to deal with many of these points to protect your interests and give you security for the future.

A cohabitation agreement will set out details of how ownership of assets is to be dealt with in the event that you and your partner separate, including home ownership, capital, income and investments. It can also include how you will deal with matters during your time together, for example, who will be responsible for paying the mortgage or other bills.

This is a good way of entering into a relationship on an open and honest basis, as well as providing reassurance for the future.

At Taylor Fordyce, our cohabitation solicitors have experience in drawing up cohabitation agreements that ensure your interests are protected and that, should you separate, the process will be as easy and non-confrontational as possible.

SPEAK TO OUR COHABITATION AGREEMENTS SOLICITORS

For swift, expert advice on cohabitation rights, cohabitation law and cohabitation agreements, our experts in WinchesterSunningdale or Alresford will be happy to help.

For more information about our related services, see our Family Law page.

OUR COHABITATION LAW SERVICES

LEGAL ADVICE WHEN BUYING PROPERTY WITH AN UNMARRIED PARTNER

If you are thinking of buying a property with your partner, it is advisable to take legal advice before the purchase is finalised. If you will be putting a larger amount of money into the property, it is easy to protect this, so that if you were to split up, you would be entitled to your full share. If you were to simply buy the property as joint tenants, then you would only generally receive half of the net sale proceeds.

It is also possible to put other details into a cohabitation agreement, including:

  • How the mortgage payments and other outgoings will be shared
  • What will happen if one party wants to sell the property
  • How you will deal with the transaction if one of you wants to buy out the other, including how you will value the property
  • What arrangements you want to take effect should you have children

Making a Cohabitation Agreement

If you are planning to live with your partner, seeking advice from an expert cohabitation lawyer can help you avoid disputes in the future and ensure you both know what is expected of you, in particular in relation to finances.

We regularly provide advice for unmarried couples, and we can work with you to tailor an agreement to your exact requirements, taking into account your circumstances and how you would like to deal with your finances now and in the future.

It is important to take independent legal advice before entering into a cohabitation agreement, and you should not draft it yourselves as the courts are less likely to enforce the terms of an agreement that has not been professionally prepared and advised upon.

Separation for Unmarried Couples

If you are unmarried and separating, you will need to consider what will happen to any joint property and finances. If you do not have a cohabitation agreement in place, you may need legal help if one of you wants to sell the property that you share or if you are in dispute over co-owned assets.

If you have a cohabitation agreement in place, a solicitor will be able to advise you of your rights under this and, if necessary, take steps to deal with any dispute. We always work to resolve disagreements by way of negotiation wherever possible to avoid litigation. Where this is not possible, we will ensure you have a strong case and expert representation.

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract. This means that the courts will generally enforce the terms of a cohabitation agreement provided certain criteria have been met, including:

  • Both parties have made full financial disclosure to each other before entering into the agreement
  • Both parties have taken independent legal advice before signing
  • The document was executed as a deed in front of witnesses

COHABITATION AGREEMENTS FAQS

WHAT RIGHTS DO UNMARRIED PARTNERS HAVE ON SEPARATION?

While unmarried partners do not have extensive rights on separation, in some circumstances, it may be possible to establish an interest in certain assets. For example, where one party contributed towards the mortgage although the property was not registered in their name, if they can show that a promise was made that they would receive a legal interest in the property, then a court may order that they are entitled to a share of the sale proceeds.

If children are involved, then the person with the day-to-day care may receive maintenance payments towards their upkeep. They will not be entitled to a maintenance payment themselves, however.

WHAT IS A COHABITATION AGREEMENT?

A cohabitation agreement is a legal document specifying how you will deal with shared matters such as property, income, assets and children, including how these will be dealt with should you separate.

WHAT SHOULD YOU INCLUDE IN A COHABITATION AGREEMENT?

The agreement will be drawn up specifically to deal with your situation and can include any terms you wish. Matters that are commonly addressed include:

  • What will happen to shared property, including what shares it is owned in, who will pay the mortgage and what will happen if you separate
  • Who will be responsible for paying bills
  • What will happen to shared bank accounts if you separate
  • Who will take responsibility for paying any debts you may have
  • What payments or other arrangements will be made in respect of children, although it should be noted that the court will override these if it believes they are not in the best interests of the children
  • What will happen if you are unable to work

IS A COHABITATION AGREEMENT DIFFERENT TO A LIVING TOGETHER AGREEMENT?

A living together agreement is another way of referring to a cohabitation agreement.

COHABITATION AGREEMENTS PRICING

Our fees are transparent and competitive, and we will make sure you know the likely costs from the outset. We offer fixed fees in some situations.

SPEAK TO OUR COHABITATION AGREEMENTS SOLICITORS

For swift, expert advice on cohabitation rights and cohabitation agreements, please contact our team today.

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