With more and more relationships, including very long term relationships, being outside of marriage, it’s always important to think about legal issues and the future. Very much like wills (where no-one actually wants to think about death) it isn’t always a comfortable feeling talking about what happens if things don’t work out in a relationship. If you don’t, however, the consequences can be severe.
Having a cohaboitation agreement si always recimmeded for a long term relationship where people are living together and financial matters are shared, to 1 extent or another. If you are buying a property together, a cohabitation agreement becomes even more important.
If there are children, issues are very complex and it;s important to understand that a contract may well not be binding. With children, courts will always put the interests if those children first and this can mean overruling any documented agreement between parents.
Most clients find that there is a sense of real relief where a good, well thought out cohabitation agreement is finalised. Important issues have been openly discussed and clarified in a contract.
It’s also worth clarifying that cohabitation agreements often crossover with other types of legal documents. For example, you may not need a cohabitation agreement if the only current financial arrangements between you as a couple are the joint ownership of a property. In that situation a declaration or deed of co-ownership may be sufficient.
The law on unmarried couples
A common misunderstanding is that couples who are in long term relationships, especially with children, tend to think that the law is very clear on who gets what. In fact, the opposite is the reality which means it’s even more important to get a cohabitation agreement in place.
What to include in a cohabitation agreement
Typical issues to e considered and included in a Cohabitation Agreement to avoid delay, uncertainty and cost of possible disputes or litigation should the relationship fail include :-
- property beneficial ownership rights.
- who stays in the property if the parties split up which also includes consideration of whether the property should be sold or a process for 1 party to buy out the other.
- financial issues such as joint bank accounts, who pays the mortgage and outgoings and what happens if the parties split in terms of sorting out joint finances and liabilities such as a joint mortgage.
- debts incurred by the couple.
- possible cross indemnities where there are joint liabilities for debts and only 1 party ends up paying or where a creditor only goes after 1 of the couple where debts are incurred jointly and severally.
- Documenting and then ringfencing or protecting assets which the parties agree are intended always to be kept separate such as investments, inheritance.
Our team of lawyers in London can advise on how to get the right cohabitation agreement for you. We provide specialist advice at legal cost which is far more competitive than larger City or West End law firms. Please do get in contact.
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