Personal Legal Services

Unmarried Couples & Cohabitation Agreements

Many couples who are not married choose to live together without signing a cohabitation agreement. While this may seem like a simple and carefree way to live, it can often lead to heartache and legal problems if the relationship ends.

A cohabitation agreement is a document that can help minimise these problems by setting out the rights and responsibilities of each person in the relationship. Garratts team of expert family law solicitors have decades of experience with drafting cohabitation agreements. We can help you to draft an agreement that is suitable for your needs. Call 0161 665 3502 or leave us a message via our contact form.


What is a common-law partner?

In England and Wales, living with a partner outside of a marriage or civil partnership is known as cohabitation. However, contrary to public belief, unmarried couples, even if cohabiting, do not have the same legal rights or responsibilities as married couples or civil partners. This means that if you are cohabiting with someone, your legal position is exactly the same as it would be if you were just friends.


Do unmarried couples have any legal rights?

If a cohabitating, unmarried couple separates, they have no automatic rights to or against one another. The law does not provide for cohabitation rendering the cohabitants subject to joint liabilities and joint assets, including property. In order to achieve some level of protection, cohabiting couples can draft and sign a written agreement known as a cohabitation agreement.


What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract between two unmarried adults who cohabit a property together. It can specify the rights and financial responsibilities of each cohabitant should their relationship come to an end by either person deciding to leave or by court order. The agreement can also offer guidance on how other issues should be dealt with, such as ownership of property, shared debt, child support, or ownership of pets. A cohabitation agreement is not legally binding, but cohabitants are encouraged to follow its provisions as much as possible.


What should a cohabitation agreement include?

In order for a cohabitation agreement to be effective, it must be detailed and comprehensive. Some cohabitants include clauses in their cohabitation agreements such as:

  • Provision for shared children of the relationship
  • Provision for shared pets
  • Inheritance and wills
  • Division of shared assets and debts/mortgages in the event of a break-up, including who will pay which bills
  • Shared and individual owned property
  • Shared and individual owned business
  • Pension schemes and savings

It is important to have cohabitation agreements reviewed by a family law solicitor prior to signing. They can review the cohabitation agreement to ensure it is comprehensive and suitable for your needs whilst clearly stating the financial responsibility for each partner.


How do I make a cohabitation agreement?

It is recommended cohabitating partners seek legal advice before making a cohabitation agreement. However, cohabitants can prepare their own cohabitation agreements but must ensure they are both entirely happy with the contents and provisions in the cohabitation agreement. A cohabitation agreement made without legal expertise may not be suitable for your needs so cohabitants should seek the guidance of a family law solicitor.


Can we make changes to our cohabitation agreement in future?

At Garratts, we encourage our clients to regularly update their cohabitation agreements should their circumstances change. Cohabitation agreements can be altered at any time prior to cohabitants separating, providing both cohabitants agree. Alteration reasons may include but are not limited to:

  • One partner is disabled or suffering from a serious/long-term illness.
  • A change in financial circumstances, i.e. job loss or inheritance
  • The birth of shared children
  • Plans to enter a civil partnership or get married


Why should I choose Garratts to help draft a cohabitation agreement?

At Garratts, we understand that a cohabitation agreement can help assist the court in making a decision based on previously expressed financial intentions.

Garratts is dedicated to providing cohabitants with advice that is tailored to their individual circumstances and requirements. We also understand cohabitation agreements should not cost cohabiting couples a small fortune. Therefore, we provide cohabitants with cohabitation agreements that meet their needs and requirements without charging excessive fees.

For further information about cohabitation agreements, speak to our family law team on 0161 665 350 or leave us a message.


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