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Planning for your future: Cohabiting couples

5 Sep 2018 | Under Latest News | Posted by | 0 Comments

‘Common law marriage’ is not recognised under current laws in England & Wales, so what does this mean for the 3.3 million couples who are cohabiting?

Without an agreement couples will be uncertain as to who owns what if the relationship breaks down. For example, one partner may not be entitled to a share in a property even if they’ve made financial contributions over many years. Women are particularly at risk if, for example, they give up work to act as primary carers for their children. This can leave severe financial problems, homelessness and debt.

A cohabitation agreement (also known as a living together agreement) provides co-habiting couples with certainty as to what is to happen in the event of their relationship breaking down.


What is a cohabitation agreement?

A Cohabitation agreement is a legal agreement between couples who live together but are not married or in a civil partnership. This agreement generally deals with three principle areas:

o Who owns (and owes) what at the time of the agreement, and in what proportions;

o What financial arrangements they have decided to make while they are living together; and

o How property, assets and income should be divided if they should split up.

A court will usually uphold an agreement, even if it is disputed, so long as it is properly drawn up, the terms are reasonable and both parties have received separate, independent legal advice on its effect.


Why enter a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is, at present, the only option for cohabiting couples to ensure fair treatment of their affairs before the law.

No matter how long a couple have lived together, the parties are not automatically entitled to financial support or to a share in property after a break up. This can lead to dispute which can be expensive, time consuming and the outcome uncertain. An effective cohabitation agreement reduces or eliminates any potential dispute.

Some couples find that the process of making a cohabitation agreement gives them the opportunity to think and talk about how living together will work financially which reduces the risk of future arguments about financial matters.


What can be included in a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement can cover matters such as how household costs will be met, ownership of property, pension provision such as nomination for death -in-service benefits, contributions to joint account, credit cards and debts, who owns and/or will keep items such as furniture and cars, set down some expectations about how children would be cared for if the couple were to live apart.


Other things to remember

It is important to ensure that the agreement is kept up to date. Couples should review the agreement when their circumstances change, for example, if they move to a new house or have children.

Couples should also make Wills so that their wishes can be put into effect in the event of their death as there are no strict rules about what should happen to the interests of co-habiting couples.


Specialist advice

Bradley Haynes Law can advise you on the best ways of planning for your future. Please contact Quacy Thomas on 01905 900 919 or email for more information.