A Cohabitation Agreement is a written document that records the intention of those cohabiting about what will happen to those assets acquired by the cohabitants before they begin to cohabit and what is to happen to those assets acquired during the period of cohabitation. The Agreement essentially regulates and records what the cohabitants wish to happen with their property and is applicable to those who wish to live together without marriage. Whilst it cannot be guaranteed that Cohabitation Agreements will be binding on those who wish to cohabit if any dispute arises, it certainly provides clarity and is a persuasive authority, should the matter deteriorate into legal proceedings. Whether or not the Cohabitation Agreement will be binding on the cohabitants, will depend very much upon how it is drafted and who does that drafting. To minimise any risks of enforceability, any suggestion of duress or undue influence must be avoided; expert legal advice is essential in doing so. We have expert knowledge and in excess of 20 years of experience of drafting legal documents for the use of those clients involved in family or matrimonial situations.
Firstly, cohabitants who intend to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement should have the following essential elements in their Cohabitation Agreement:
- Independent legal advice.
- Full and frank disclosure of all financial assets.
- Certification to be signed by a Solicitor at the conclusion of agreement, confirming the advice given regarding the effect of the agreement
There are a number of important issues that must be covered by the Cohabitation Agreement including, but not limited to, the following:
- Housing and other (real) property – Is there an intention to purchase property? If so, who is to contribute what to the deposit? In whose name is the property registered?
- Financial support – What maintenance is to be paid should children be involved or one of the parties becomes primary carer and does not work?
- Joint bank accounts and credit cards – Who contributes what to any joint liabilities or debts that have been accumulated during the period of cohabitation? If an item is purchased jointly, how is it to be dealt with if separation occurs? How are funds in a joint account to be divided?
- Other property –What is to happen to cars? What about insurance policies?
- Personal property – How is ownership of larger or valuable items to be decided? Is there to be an opportunity for one person to buy out the other person’s share?
There are a number of considerations that a cohabiting couple may want to consider and, in so doing, it is important that they consider the legality of the document. The Cohabitation Agreement, as far as possible, needs to provide certainty as to what is to happen and to show a clear intention to create legal relations between the cohabitants. This is in addition to there being independent legal advice and full and frank disclosure of financial assets, together with evidence of that independent legal advice by way of a Solicitor’s Certificate of advice at the conclusion of the agreement.
We appreciate that the issue of a Cohabitation Agreement may not be romantic but it certainly is pragmatic. This is important, given the increase in the number of couples choosing to cohabit as opposed to marry or enter into a Civil Partnership.
Warren’s Family Law offer a fixed fee for the preparation of a Cohabitation Agreement, subject to the conditions contained in that fixed fee quotation of £650.00 plus VAT contained in the website. Please contact our office for further information from one of our expert legal advisers, should you wish to engage our services or have any further questions.