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What is a cohabitation agreement and do I need one?

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Cohabitation is a living arrangement where a couple who are not married or not in a civil partnership live together in the same household. The law gives cohabiting couples considerably less legal protection on separation or death than for married couples or those in civil partnerships and so entering into a cohabitation agreement can be very beneficial.

A cohabitation agreement sets out the arrangements which will apply when a couple live together, for example, who owns which assets or what share of an asset does each individual own. The agreement can also include individual rights if a breakdown of the relationship was to occur. We can assist you in drafting such an agreement and advising what should be included.

A cohabitation agreement is binding if at the time of entering into it, the document is drafted and executed properly, it is signed as a deed, and both parties have been obtained independent legal advice. There must be no evidence that either party has entered into the agreement under duress or coercion from the other person, otherwise the agreement will not be binding.

Matters which should be covered in a cohabitation agreement include:

  • Ownership of real and personal property

  • Finances - for example how will the bills be paid, who will pay the rent and from who’s accounts

  • Children - provisions for their maintenance should be included

  • Other matters - it is crucial not to include trivial matters such as who will complete the housework.

A cohabitation agreement is a fluid document meaning it can be amended at any time in the future, which is important as people’s lives are constantly changing. We would strongly advise any agreement to be reviewed following significant changes such as the birth of children, house moves or inheritance. Once you have reached an agreement with your partner you will need to speak with a solicitor to draw up the cohabitation agreement.

The costs will differ depending on the complexity of your agreement. Before the agreement can be finalised, both parties must seek independent legal advice to ensure the agreement is fair and is not being made under duress. The agreement must also be signed in the presence of witnesses.

Should you wish to draw up a cohabitation agreement then please contact Stephensons on 0161 696 6193.

By Nicola Horrocks (paralegal) and Emma Roberts (associate family solicitor