In the UK today, more and more couples are choosing to remain unmarried. Many of these couples choose to live together, either in rented accommodation or owned property. However, not all of these couples fully understand what their individual rights are and are under the impression that they are legally protected in the same way as married couples are in the event of separation. This is not entirely true, and actually without a cohabitation agreement in place, one of half the couple could be left with next to nothing after a separation.
What it is
A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding document that some unmarried couples choose to form to protect them from a long-lasting and complicated break up. One of the purposes of cohabitation agreements is to set out what will happen to assets such as property and savings if you and your partner separate. Cohabitation agreements can also deal with what will happen to mortgage, debt and rental payments, and who will be given the responsibility of paying ongoing household bills if you break up.
A cohabitation agreement can not only deal with how financial issues will be dealt with in the event that you and your partner split up but can also detail what the situation regarding any children you have together will be. It is often a good idea to lay this out in writing, because during a break up emotions can run high and arguments may arise between you and your ex that could negatively affect your relationship with your children.
Why you should consider getting one
Although it may feel like getting a cohabitation agreement put together is admitting that there is a chance that you and your partner could break up one day, you should try to think of it as a precaution just in case the worst does happen. It doesn’t mean that either of you are unsure of the relationship or about living together, but rather provides peace of mind when it comes to the future of your children and/or finances. A cohabitation agreement also means that no person will be left staying with the other solely because of joint responsibilities, and if the relationship has run its course there will be no pressure to stay together in order to save money rather than out of love.
Furthermore, if you and your partner have been together for quite a long time, you may have bought expensive possessions and even property together. Without a cohabitation agreement, issues can arise over who owns what. It can also be difficult if property is shared together because it is likely that one person will move out, which could leave one person in a difficult financial situation.
If you and your partner are unmarried and want to ensure that your future is secure even if the relationship ends your best bet is to seek the advice of specialist family law solicitors, who will be able to provide you with advice and guidance regarding cohabitation agreements. They could also draft one for you, which is the only way to make it legally binding.