13/11/2013 06:33 GMT | Updated 23/01/2014 18:56 GMT

What Is a Cohabitation Agreement and Do I Need One?

When two people get married it is natural for them to consider getting a pre-nuptial agreement put in place so that certain things are protected by law should they break up further down the line. However, what if two people have no desire to get married but are still living together? Surely they have the same legal protection as married couples, right? Wrong. The law treats these two situations very differently and so when you move in with your long-term partner it may be worth considering a cohabitation agreement.

Since the 1990's the amount of couples who decide to stay unmarried has been on the increase. This could be down to increased divorce rates across the country or the fact that a lot of people cannot afford the wedding of their dreams during a recession, but either way there are now thousands of people living in this situation; many of which have children.


Do I Need A Cohabitation Agreement? -

The break-up of any relationship is obviously a tough time for everyone involved, but it could be made all the more difficult by the fact that one person could end up with nothing. A cohabitation agreement will help to prevent this in the following cases.

  • If an unmarried couples who are living together break up then neither partner is entitled to further financial aid from the other; even if they have been receiving it ever since they started living together. And even if they are the one who has to take primary care of the children.
  • If a partner moves into their spouse's home and the relationship breaks down then they are entitled to no part, or any money gained from the sale of, the home they have been sharing with their lover; even if they have been contributing to mortgage payments or general upkeep of the property. This often leaves people homeless or facing large legal fees to resolve the issue in court.
  • If no decision can be made over who gets to keep joint purchases, such as a car, then both parties will have to pay the required legal fees to come to a conclusion in court.

A cohabitation agreement or a Living Together Agreement, as it is sometimes known, will not only detail who owns what within your relationship but also how personal savings and jointly owned possessions will be distributed should the relationship come to an end. You can also pre-determine how much each person will pay towards the rent, mortgage and monthly bills as well as how child support will be sorted if the relationship finishes.

This may not seem like the most romantic of things to do at an exciting time when you are about to move in together, but it could save a lot of heart ache in the future. If you are considering doing this then here are a few tips:

  • Decide between the two of you who owns what and how joint purchases will be distributed should the worst happen. Try to do this logically and fairly because it will be legally binding in the event of a break-up.
  • Take your time in doing this as, although your feelings about certain aspects may change, the decisions you make now will affect what happens in the future.
  • Seek separate legal advice. It is beneficial for each person find a trusted law firm that can offer advice and support during the process, as well as ensuring that all the legalities are completed correctly. The contract is then drawn up by one of the legal representatives and sent to the other so that it can be signed by the other party.

Finding a trusted and experienced law firm in this situation will not only make the process so much easier on you and your partner but will also ensure that everything occurs as you want it to during the difficult time of a relationship split.