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The benefits of cohabitation agreements for unmarried couples

by John Saunders
29th Mar 24 12:14 pm

As societal norms shift, more couples are choosing to live together without tying the knot. However, the absence of a formal union can create legal uncertainties should the relationship end or if one partner passes away.

It’s here that a cohabitation agreement steps in, offering a layer of protection for both parties. Engaging with family solicitors in Orpington or your local area can help you navigate the complexities of such a legal arrangement, ensuring that you both have peace of mind.

In this article, we’ll explore the importance of these little pieces of paper…

Understanding cohabitation agreements and their purpose

A cohabitation agreement  is a legal document that unmarried couples living together can draft to outline the ownership of their possessions, financial arrangements, and the steps they would take if they decide to separate.

While not as romantic as wedding vows, these agreements can save a considerable amount of stress and cost in the future. They provide the following benefits:

Legal recognition

In the UK, cohabiting couples do not have the same legal rights as married couples or civil partners. This is a common misconception that can lead to difficulties, particularly when a relationship comes to an end. A cohabitation agreement helps to set the record straight by clearly defining the rights and obligations of each party.

Financial clarity

Without an agreement, disagreements over who owns what and who is entitled to what can quickly turn amicable separations sour. A cohabitation agreement can include details on how to divide property, manage debts, and handle bills to prevent such conflicts.

Children’s welfare

If children are involved, the agreement also provides an opportunity to make arrangements for their care and support. Although it cannot override the statutory child maintenance arrangements, it can supplement them and clarify other aspects of the child’s upbringing.

Advantages of having a cohabitation agreement

There are a multitude of benefits when it comes to putting a cohabitation agreement in place. Not only does it provide security in the case of a breakup, but it can also protect your financial interests during the relationship. Here are some of the main pros:

Protection of assets

One of the main reasons couples opt for a cohabitation agreement is to safeguard their individual assets. It ensures that any property or assets brought into the relationship remain with their original owner, or are divided as specified, in the event of separation.

Clear responsibility division

The document can delineate responsibilities regarding property, debts, and expenses. This way, both parties know exactly what they’re accountable for, which can help to prevent misunderstandings and disagreements in the future.

Reducing legal costs

In the unfortunate event of a separation, the agreement can minimise the need for extensive legal intervention by setting out clear terms for the division of assets. This can significantly reduce legal costs and the time spent on resolving disputes.

Peace of mind

The psychological benefit of a cohabitation agreement should not be underestimated. Knowing that there is a safety net can bring peace of mind to both parties, allowing you to focus on building a life together rather than worrying about potential disputes.

Flexible arrangements

Unlike the rigid structure of marriage laws, cohabitation agreements are highly customisable. You can tailor the agreement to suit your specific situation, needs, and wishes, which is particularly advantageous if your circumstances are unique or complex.

Preparing for the future

While no one enjoys contemplating the end of a relationship, a cohabitation agreement can also prompt you to think about and plan for the future, including retirement and inheritance matters. It’s an opportunity to discuss these topics in a less emotionally charged environment than during a crisis or breakup.

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Navigating the legal aspects of a cohabitation agreement

While drafting a cohabitation agreement, it’s crucial to understand the legal implications. The agreement must be fair, made without duress, and both parties should have received independent legal advice. This ensures the agreement is more likely to be upheld by the courts should it be challenged. Some tips for getting it right include:

Seeking legal advice

Professional advice from a solicitor is invaluable when creating a cohabitation agreement. They can ensure the agreement complies with current legislation and truly reflects the intentions of both parties.

It’s also an opportunity to discuss and understand the legal differences between cohabitation, marriage, and civil partnerships, which can be found in depth on reliable resources like the Citizens Advice guide.

Regular reviews

It’s also recommended to review the agreement periodically, particularly after significant life events such as the birth of a child or a change in financial circumstances. This ensures that the agreement remains relevant and accurate over time.

Get your cohabitation agreement signed ASAP

The decision to live together without marriage is a personal one and can be beautifully rewarding. However, it is important to safeguard the relationship with a cohabitation agreement that provides legal clarity and protects both parties’ interests. Whether you’re buying property together, sharing expenses, or raising children, this document can reinforce your commitment to each other while also preparing you for any eventualities.

Remember that the absence of legal formalities in your relationship doesn’t mean you should leave your future to chance. Take proactive steps to establish a cohabitation agreement that reflects your circumstances and wishes. With the guidance of legal professionals and thorough research, you can achieve a mutually beneficial arrangement that provides certainty in an uncertain world.

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