Whilst the number of couples who are choosing to cohabit long term is ever increasing, the law has been slow to recognise this change in social attitude towards relationships and marriage.
As a result, the rights of cohabiting couples remain vastly different from those of married couples, and on the breakdown of a relationship this can lead to a host of disputes which can be extremely costly and contentious.
If you need a solicitor in London to draft or advise on a cohabitation agreement, please call or email us.
Legal rights of unmarried couples
Should a cohabiting relationship break down there is no clear right in law for either to make a claim against the other for a share of assets or maintenance, as there would be in the case of separating married parties. Such couples are left to rely upon the principles of trust, contract or equity.
Cohabitation agreements provide certainty and a degree of protection. A well drafted agreement will clearly set out how assets are intended to be divided between parties on the breakdown of a relationship, as well as how they should be dealt with during the relationship.
What to include in a cohabitation agreement?
- Ownership of assets whether already owned or to be purchased in the future;
- The extent of each party’s interest in the home they live in or are to live in and any other property owned jointly or by one party;
- How expenses, debts and liabilities are to be split and paid for;
- Arrangements for children;
- When the agreement shall terminate, including upon marriage and whether it’s terms shall be converted into a pre-nuptial agreement;
- How disputes are to be resolved should the relationship break down, including the method by which the home should be sold.
A cohabitation agreement does not replace the need for a will
Whilst a cohabitation agreement can seek to protect the parties on the breakdown of their relationship it does not protect them or provide either of them with any right should one pass away. It is therefore prudent to make a will at the same time to provide for the other on death.
When to consider a cohabitation agreement
One of the main triggers for considering a cohabitation contract is where a couple buy a property together. It is always a good idea to have an agreement in place in this scenario and sometimes a fairly simple form of property co-ownership agreement or trust document will suffice. However, there are many other situations where a more detailed cohabitation agreement is suitable.
We regularly advise on and draft cohabitation agreements for clients. Get in touch with our solicitors to discuss your rights and your needs, or to get more information about the legal costs involved.