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Cohabitation Agreements

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Cohabitation agreements are an essential part of living with a partner in a cohabiting relationship. They are a bit like prenuptial agreements but for the unmarried. A cohabitation agreement sets out what happens to property, assets and finances if a couple split up. Cohabitation agreements can be as detailed or as simple as a couple prefer.

Top London family solicitors tend to find that cohabiting couples realise that a cohabitation agreement is a good idea when they are buying their first home together but cohabitation agreements are needed in a number of different relationship scenarios.

OTS Solicitors and cohabitation agreements

OTS Solicitors specialise in proactively helping families through preparing family law agreements, such as cohabitation agreements.

To speak to family solicitor, Behzad Sharmin or to a member of the London based OTS Solicitors family law team about a cohabitation agreements please call us on 0203 959 9123 for an initial discussion about how we can help you. Alternatively, you can contact us through our online enquiry form.

Who should sign a cohabitation agreement?

Cohabitation agreements are not limited to couples jointly buying a home. Anyone who is in a cohabiting or unmarried relationship and:

  • Owns a property in their name but lives with a partner or intends to do so;

  • Lives in a house owned by a family member;

  • Lives in a property owned by a family trust fund under a licence;

  • Owns a second home either jointly with their partner, or their partner has access to it;

  • Owns other property with their partner, for example a car with a car loan, furniture, have joint bank accounts and credit arrangements.

Splitting up without a cohabitation agreement

Many people think that they do not need a cohabitation agreement because in the unlikely event they separate from their partner, they will have legal protection as a “common law husband or wife’’.

As the term “common law husband or wife” is used so much in the press, it is hard for many unmarried couples to understand that there is no legal concept of a common law spouse. In the eyes of UK family law, you are either married or not.

If under UK family law, you are not legally married but in a cohabiting relationship, you do not get the protection and flexibility of UK divorce legislation. In the UK, if you are a property owning cohabitee or making a claim against a property, you have to make an application under UK property laws. The proceedings are complex and costly.

Even top London family solicitors cannot guarantee a particular court outcome if you start or respond to property law court proceedings. That is because when an unmarried couple separates, so much hinges on strict property law, rather than the family court being able to assess need and to make the court orders that are best for the couple and any children. The court may have to assess historical property paperwork as well as assess the evidence of the unmarried partners about their property intentions.

The best option for cohabiting couples or those who intend to live together is to enter a cohabitation agreement. In the majority of cases, with a carefully drafted cohabitation agreement in place there is no need for property law court proceedings as the cohabitation agreement records how the equity in any property will be split or how any other assets or  debts will be sorted out.  

What is a cohabitation agreement?

The question “what is a cohabitation agreement” is a good query as family lawyers will tell you that no two cohabitation agreements are the same. That is because it is important that the cohabitation agreement is bespoke to you and your partner, and covers your personal and financial circumstances.       

 Often cohabitation agreements will include:

  • Who legally and beneficially owns the family home – the legal owners may not necessarily be the same as the beneficial owners;

  • What happens if one partner pays for home improvements to the property;

  • What happens if one partner does “do it yourself” renovations to the property;

  • Who pays the mortgage and household and utility bills and what happens if one partner does not pay their share of the mortgage or bills;

  • Whether the family home will be sold if you separate or which one of you will stay in the house;

  • Which one of you will get to keep any pets;

  • Whether the terms of the cohabitation agreement should be reviewed, and if so when.

Without a cohabitation agreement saying what will happen to property, other assets and bank accounts there is a risk that a separated unmarried couple cannot reach an agreement over how to divide their property and assets. If there is no cohabitation agreement in place, expensive and complicated property court proceedings may need to be commenced. That is why top London family solicitors say that the best option is to sign a cohabitation agreement.

Unmarried couples and Wills

As well as sorting out a cohabitation agreement to protect you in case you separate from your partner, it is just as important to make a Will. That is because your cohabitation agreement only covers what happens if you split up. A Will records what happens to your property and your estate if one of you dies.

Signing Wills is the best thing to do if you are in a cohabiting relationship, as unlike a spouse, an unmarried partner will not inherit anything under if their partner dies without leaving a Will and UK intestacy laws are applied to the estate. A cohabitee may be able to make a claim as a dependant against the estate but those types of court claims are expensive and protracted

OTS family law solicitors

For expert legal advice on UK family law and cohabitation agreements and the preparation of a Will, contact OTS London family law solicitors today for an informal chat about how London family law solicitor, Behzad Sharmin, and the family law team can help you with a cohabitation agreement or Will. Call us on 0203 959 9123 and let us help you. Alternatively, contact us by completing the online enquiry form.   
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