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What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement is a written contract between unmarried couples to clearly define who owns what and how cash and assets should be divided in the event of a relationship breakdown.

What is the Purpose of a Cohabitation Agreement?

There is a common misconception that after a number of years, couples living together have matrimonial rights as if they were husband and wife. Unfortunately there is no such legal status in the UK, “common law husband and wife” does not exist.

In a divorce court, under matrimonial law, assets such as property are normally divided equally. This is not the case for unmarried couples, unless they have joint ownership of the home. The same applies to couples outside of a civil partnership.

If the property is solely owned by one party and there is a breakup, the other could be left homeless and destitute. This is even if he or she has paid towards the mortgage or contributed in other ways, such as staying at home to care for children.

In such circumstances, without one party agreeing to a financial settlement, to go to court can prove to be extremely costly with little chances of success.

Where children are involved, an agreement can give peace of mind. It offers protection in defining where they live and how they are financially supported, should the parents decide to live apart.

Definition of Financial Responsibilities

What obligation each party has to the other to support/maintain one another while they are living together.

An agreement can define contributions to household expenses. Whether there is a joint bank account and who pays the bills.

Who is responsible for paying what share of the mortgage/rent. Whether each party remains solely liable for any existing or future debt.

Key Elements Required in a Cohabitation Agreement

  • Keep it simple focusing on what’s important to you and your partner
  • Both parties are independently legally advised
  • The agreement is clearly understood by all
  • There must not have been “undue duress” during signing the agreement
  • It reflects a sense of fairness should the courts become involved
  • There are detailed termination provisions for the division of household contents, cars, pets, pensions and any other financial assets.

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