Why do you need a cohabitation agreement?

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If you live with your partner, or are considering moving in together, you may have thought about a cohabitation agreement and whether you need one. There’s no legal requirement to have a cohabitation agreement in order to live with someone, but it can be a useful tool to protect your finances and establish practical arrangements.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

Basically, it’s an outline in a document of an open and honest conversation about what you and your partner would like to happen should the relationship come to an end. When considering a cohabitation agreement, you can discuss the financial aspects of your relationship and set them out clearly so that both parties understand the situation.

Do cohabitants have the same rights as married couples?

Quite simply, no. There is a huge difference between claims that a married couple can make following the breakdown of a marriage and what cohabitants can legally claim on separation. There is no such concept as a common law wife or husband. One of the key incentives to enter into a cohabitation agreement is to create certainty. Many couples who have lived together before separating end up in bitter disputes because there was no prior agreement about what should happen to property, money and business assets

Why should we enter into a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement can protect your financial interests, giving you peace of mind and certainty over what you will walk away with should your relationship come to an end. Your agreement may include provision for owned property, rented property, household bills and debts.

If you don’t have a cohabitation agreement in place, you will be left to organise the division of assets at a time that may already be challenging and sensitive. Generally, it works best to manage these aspects of your relationship while you are both on good terms and looking forward to a life together.

While many people feel that making a cohabitation agreement is pessimistic, its purpose is to act as a kind of insurance policy. Having such an agreement in place can allow you to move forward with confidence and security.

Should I get a cohabitation agreement if we are renting?

It’s a good idea to enter into a cohabitation agreement even if you are tenants. In the agreement, you will set out who is responsible for the cost of rent, bills and expenses. You may also own other property together, such as a car or furniture. Although you cannot make provision for care arrangements for children in a cohabitation agreement, it can prove a useful tool to manage money matters.

If you would like help in drawing up a cohabitation agreement or wish to speak to one of our specialist lawyers in the family team, please contact Helen Saggers, Will Cowell or Bev Harrison.