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What is a cohabitation agreement?
Only 10% of unmarried couples have a cohabitation agreement and almost three quarters of all people have never heard of the term. A cohabitation agreement, also known as a living together agreement, is a legally binding document. It sets out assets and obligations within the relationship to cover couples upon separation.
All relationships are unique, so a cohabitation agreement can contain a whole host of topics.
Generally, they’ll record a couple’s rights and responsibilities for:
- Their property (where they live or intend to live)
- Their finances (during and following the cohabitation)
- The arrangements made if they no longer wish to live together.
They can also include things like child arrangements, what will happen to pets and how to deal with joint debts.
What’s the difference between a cohabitation agreement and a prenuptial agreement?
The purpose and content of cohabitation agreements and prenups are very similar.
The main difference is that prenups are specifically drafted for couples with the intention of getting married or entering a civil partnership.
What is the benefit of a cohabitation agreement?
Cohabitation agreements aren’t necessary for everyone, but they can be extremely helpful. Many people don’t truly appreciate the real cost of going to court and that’s exactly what could happen without a cohabitation agreement. Having your affairs in a legal document can avoid drama and further costs down the line.
If you don’t list all your assets and agree on your arrangements, you may have to deal with the dispute in court. Especially if there are items of high value in the relationship, such as a house or car.
They can also help you avoid disrupting the lives of pets and children, who could otherwise get caught up in disagreements.
How can you justify a cohabitation agreement to your partner?
You may be nervous bringing up the idea of a cohabitation agreement to your partner in case you offend them or come across as unromantic.
In reality, the practical benefits outweigh the issue of romance.
But also, a cohabitation agreement helps to set expectations, avoid disputes, and keep you both prepared for the future. Your partner could take this as a sign of your care towards them.
What’s involved in the cohabitation agreement process?
Before hiring a solicitor, you may want to discuss what you’d like to include in your agreement and try to decide what will happen to your house, assets, etc.
After that, you’ll need to book an initial meeting with a solicitor to discuss your requirements.
One of you will then hire the solicitor to draw up the agreement and send it to both you and your partner. The partner who hasn’t instructed the solicitor will need to find a second solicitor to provide independent legal advice on the agreement. This step is vital as it ensures your partner fully understands the contents and consequences of the agreement.
Once there’s a consensus on the content of the cohabitation agreement, you can both have your copy signed off and witnessed. Each partner needs to have an independent legal representative.
Are they legally binding?
A cohabitation agreement is only legally binding if:
- Drafted properly by a solicitor
- Executed in the required form
- All parties have taken independent legal advice
If your agreement meets these criteria, you’ll have full legal protection.
Having independent legal representation removes the possibility of duress. For example, if one side claims that the other ‘made them sign it.’ Solicitors can’t act for both sides here as it would be a conflict of interest.
What if we can’t afford a cohabitation agreement?
There are other things you can do to ensure you and your partner have some protection, especially in the case of death. These include creating a will and naming your partner on your pension and life insurance.