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More and more couples are choosing to live together without getting married. Many assume they will have the same rights as married couples if they separate. However, there is no such thing as ‘common-law’ marriage. The governing law can be highly complex, meaning couples living together or those with blended family arrangements face many financial uncertainties upon separation.
Take the common scenario where one partner puts more funds towards the family home purchase than the other – should that person receive more money back at the end of the relationship? If there is a joint title, there is no legal guarantee that this person will be able to reclaim more than 50% of the net value of the property. A cohabitation agreement can also protect an economically weaker partner by recognising the contribution of parents who take time off work to raise a child.
If you’re looking forward to moving in with your partner, it won’t feel like the time to be worrying about what might happen if things go wrong. However, particularly if you are buying a property together, this is worth considering carefully. A cohabitation agreement can help you agree on a pragmatic, fair way to settle financial matters without the pressure and distress of a relationship breaking down. The Thorneycroft Family Law team have extensive experience in advising clients in all sorts of different domestic situations. We have worked with hundreds of couples who live together, often with children and, of course, family pets.
A cohabitation agreement (sometimes known as a living together agreement) can protect either or both of you in case of a relationship breakdown, working similarly to a prenuptial agreement. It is a formal document describing how you and your partner will manage your money matters. The agreement will be legally binding in court, provided it is drafted and executed correctly as a deed. You can make a cohabitation agreement at any time and review and amend it periodically by consent.
The agreement will clearly define how to split your property, savings, debts and other assets and if needed, state how your children will be looked after and financially supported. You can also use it to specify how you and your partner will handle your everyday financial matters, such as rent and mortgage payments, household bills, and life insurance coverage.
People enter into cohabitation agreements for several reasons but the main objectives are usually to:
Thorneycroft will tailor a cohabitation agreement to your circumstances but there are a few key elements that should be discussed when you seek legal advice:
Remember, for a cohabitation agreement to be legally binding, both parties must seek independent legal advice and fully disclose their financial situations.
Thorneycroft fully understand the importance of working with our clients to maintain and promote a healthy, non-adversarial relationship. We are here to provide clear-headed and practical advice regarding your rights and responsibilities around a potentially sensitive subject. Our aim is always to ensure that you are protected in the context of a fair and reasonable settlement should the relationship break down.
Our family law team have extensive experience of advising and assisting clients with cohabitation agreements. We have the legal expertise and know-how to guide you through the process. As part of our cohabitation agreement service, you can expect an initial detailed consultation and advice on the implications of signing an agreement. We will advise on what financial information is needed and draft a schedule setting out your respective financial positions. Together, we will prepare a cohabitation agreement that clearly reflects the intentions of you and your partner.
With so many different relationship dynamics, there is no longer a one-size-fits-all when it comes to family law. Some couples may see entering a cohabitation agreement as an unnecessarily bleak outlook but you never know what lies ahead and it is sensible to protect your interests. If you have any queries or would like any advice or assistance, get in touch today.