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Are cohabitation agreements worthwhile?

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More and more people are now deciding to regulate the terms of their relationship. As marriage is on the decrease more people are cohabiting. Cohabitants should be warned however that common law wives and husbands do not have the same rights and protection as those who are legally married. In fact the English Law does not recognise ‘common law wives and common law husbands’.
I have seen many clients over the years who believe that they are entitled to half of everything because they have been in a relationship for so many years. It is a lawyer’s worst nightmare to have to inform them that their beliefs have no basis in law and that if they are not married or part of a civil partnership then their rights are dramatically reduced and that in some cases they are entitled to nothing.
This is the reason why I will always advise my clients about the need for cohabitation agreements. It does not matter whether you are just starting out in your relationship, are just about to move in together or already are in a long term cohabiting relationship. I would strongly advise you to regulate the terms of your relationship and protect yourself.
A cohabitation agreement is normally drafted to reflect the terms of any agreement between a couple or between family members or friends. The practical guidelines laid out in a cohabitation agreement will make it clear for both parties what will be expected of them should the relationship break down. It is also important to consider what you would want to happen in the event either of you passed away.
People who live in their own homes should also consider whether they wish their partner to have an interest in their property or who will live in the property should the relationship break down. I have seen many cases where one of the parties has contributed to the relationship by raising and caring for the children. This does not establish an interest in a family home and in many cases these people have been made homeless after the end of the relationship and with no furniture, assets or money to support them.
You may think that it will not happen to you but it is a statistic that 14% of couples cohabit, that most cohabiting couples separate after 2 years and 65% of all relationships where there are children end before the child is 5 years old. I would therefore strongly urge anyone who cohabits to prepare an agreement for the future.
If you require any advice regarding cohabitation agreements please do not hesitate to contact me or our specialist team on 01616 966 229.
By family executive, Gillian Lavelle