Premarital Agreements: Cohabiting & Unmarried Couples

Cohabiting and unmarried couples may have questions about what happens to their shared finances and/or assets if they are to separate from one another. The law has not changed much to accommodate this relatively modern type of cohabiting (but unmarried) relationship. As a result, it can be hard to ascertain who is entitled to what if a couple splits up after cohabiting for a long time. If you are part of an unmarried couple, but you end up buying many shared assets (such as goods or a house) when you are together, you may wonder what will happen to your shared assets if you separate. Although married couples and couples in civil partnerships can draft premarital agreements, unmarried couples who live together can draft a similar “cohabitation agreement” which essentially acts as a “living together” contract between the two parties.

Why get a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement can dictate several things regarding an unmarried couple’s finances, as well as other things. For example, it can state which partner owns which assets, which partner pays certain bills, and what will happen to the couple’s shared assets if they separate. Although you may have personal assets which you share as part of an unmarried couple, a cohabitation agreement allows you to clearly record that the items are yours if you do go your separate ways. Cohabitation agreements can also, for example, allow unmarried couples to share more of their finances with each other after a separation – more than the law requires for unmarried couples. For example, if the unmarried couple has children, the unmarried couple’s cohabitation agreement allows one partner to provide the other with financial support (in addition to standard child maintenance payments) if the relationship breaks down in the future. A cohabitation agreement allows unmarried couples to have an agreement in place which protects them in certain ways without requiring the full commitment of a marriage.

The difficulty of discussing a cohabitation agreement

If you are the kind of couple who are not interested in entering into marriage, it may seem difficult to raise the topic of an unmarried couples’ agreement. Nonetheless, when permanently moving in together and settling in for a long-term relationship, it may be necessary to draw up an unmarried couples’ agreement on what you expect from one another in terms of finances and other similar arrangements. Similarly to a marriage’s or civil partnership’s pre-nuptial agreements, it is much easier to decide these things during the pleasant times of your relationship, as opposed to when things go awry and emotions run high. Cohabitation agreements should be properly drafted by legal experts if unmarried couples wish to control their finances accordingly. If both parties agree to their terms, then the process will be pretty simple and straightforward.

Getting a cohabitation agreement

After agreeing to how your finances and assets will be arranged in the event that you no longer live with one another due to a separation, you can get a solicitor to draft the cohabitation agreement for you and advise you both on the implications of the agreement, ensuring that both parties fully understand the terms outlined in the agreement. It is advised that the party signing the agreement should consult a different solicitor about the cohabitation agreement before signing it, allowing them to have peace of mind about what exactly they are agreeing to. As well as being a sensible step, each party having their own solicitor means that undue duress allegations can be avoided in the future if the relationship breaks down. These types of allegations suggest that one partner was “forced” to sign the cohabitation agreement against their will.

If you are your partner have begun living together permanently, yet wish to remain an unmarried couple, you may wish to secure your finances and assets should your relationship go awry. Gulbenkian Andonian Solicitors has years of experience in cohabitation agreements, ensuring that you get the outcome you desire from your unmarried couples’ cohabitation agreement.