More and more couples are living together without getting married and many people
believe that cohabiting couples have equivalent rights to married couples once they have lived together for a period of time (the myth of ‘common law marriage’).
However, this is not the case in England and Wales.
People who live together but do not marry never acquire the same rights and responsibilities as those who do get married, no matter how long they are together and regardless of whether or not they have children.
Nevertheless, if you own your own property, or are moving into a partner’s property, there are issues you need to consider one of which is a cohabitation agreement.
It might seem unromantic when you are preparing to move in together for the first time, however addressing such issues in advance should avoid, at best, disagreements and, at worst, legal proceedings if things do not work out long term.
So what are the advantages of a cohabitation agreement?
There are multiple advantages including:
- A cohabitation agreement helps to clarify the often-complicated financial commitments involved in a relationship, especially where children are involved.
- If you have received financial help from a family member to purchase your property, their investment can be documented in the agreement.
- It focuses the mind on future planning.
What is included in a cohabitation agreement?
A cohabitation agreement should be tailor-made to your specific circumstances and should consider:
- Who owns and owes what at the time of the agreement and in what proportions
- What financial arrangements you have decided to make while you are living together
- How property, assets and income should be divided if you should split up
There are the usual legal provisions that need to be included such as factual information about the parties and any children, especially if they will be living at the property, confirmation that both parties’ have received independent legal advice, that the agreement in entered into freely and voluntarily and that the parties’ intend legal consequences to flow from it.
It is essential that both parties’ exchange full and frank disclosure about their income, assets, liabilities and pensions to reduce the risk of any agreement being set aside due to misrepresentation.
The agreement should also set out the events which will terminate certain parts of the agreement, the law that will apply should any dispute arise and something called a ‘severability clause’ which stops one unenforceable clause rendering the whole agreement invalid.
Whilst the court has the power to overturn or disregard the agreement, in whole or in part, if you have both had independent legal advice and have fully and frankly shared with each other your financial position, it is unlikely to do so.
For expert advice on Cohabitation Agreements or any similar matter, contact Sophie Pincott on 01792 450010 or email [email protected] to arrange a confidential meeting.