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Alsters Kelley - Cohabitation Rights: What are Living Together Agreements?

Alsters Kelley - Cohabitation Rights: What are Living Together Agreements?

Discussing the end of your relationship while you’re still with a partner might feel awkward or unromantic, but it’s just as important as writing your Will or planning your pension. Knowing your rights and safeguarding your assets will make for a much simpler time if things do come to an end.

If you plan to move in together, or have already done so, taking the time to talk about important issues with your partner early on should help set your mind at ease, and, done properly, actually strengthen your relationship.

Married, common-law or civil partnership?

It’s a common misconception that when you live with someone you have the same rights as a married couple. In fact, your legal rights and responsibilities are very different, no matter whether you have been together for months or years. So, what’s the difference?

When you choose marriage or a civil partnership, you’re entering into a legal relationship. The law provides legislation in the event of a divorce that helps with the management of assets and providing for children, among other things.

If you’re living together, also called cohabiting, there’s no formal or legal arrangement. You may refer to your partner as a common-law spouse, however this does not provide you with any additional legal protection.

When a cohabiting couple separates, issues around property, children, and other assets may be far more complicated and involve more than one piece of legislation, all of which can add up to time-consuming and expensive legal proceedings.

For example, consider a longstanding cohabitation between Mr A and Ms B. Ms B stayed at home to raise the children and care for the family home, which they own jointly. Mr A worked to provide for them and to build his career. When they separate Ms B will have a claim against the house. However, it is unlikely she can claim against any pension built up by Mr A during the time she supported him in his career and may have no alternative resources for her own retirement.

Legal agreements for cohabiting

You don’t have to get married or enter into a civil partnership to safeguard your rights. One alternative is to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement, also known as a living together agreement. This is a legal agreement that is recognised by the courts.

As well as agreeing what you will do with your finances if one of you becomes ill, dies, or you separate, you may also lay out guidelines for more mundane issues such as how household bills and mortgage payments are divided to protect assets you owned before cohabiting.

For example, Ms B buys a house and has been paying the mortgage for many years, before Mr A begins to live with her. After moving in, Mr A provides her with a monthly payment as a contribution to the household. After separating, Mr A claims a share of equity against the house, stating that he was contributing to the mortgage. Ms B is now potentially facing a lengthy, costly, and emotionally exhausting court battle.  If they’d entered into a cohabitation agreement, this probably could have been avoided.

Legal advice for Cohabitation Agreements

As a Cohabitation Agreement is legally binding, you should always get legal advice first. Your solicitor will consider your individual circumstances and help you to decide what should be added. This may include responsibility for any children, and the distribution of personal possessions.

It’s important to remember that your circumstances may change in the future. As well as establishing an agreement for your current lifestyle, your solicitor will prompt you to look at a review of the agreement after major life changes such as having children or being made redundant.

Your solicitor will also advise you about any issues that are not included in the agreement. Unlike married couples, cohabiting does not automatically give you any rights to inherit assets. Therefore, you may need to write a Will, and consider any implications of inheritance tax.

Starting the conversation

A cohabitation agreement really is a practical arrangement that provides certainty and security for both parties. We understand that you may feel awkward in bringing the subject up with your partner. Your solicitor can advise you on how to approach the topic in a constructive way.

If you’d like to put some protection in place, or need to understand your rights, Alsters Kelley Solicitors offer a free 30-minute appointment to gain an overview of your position and provide some practical advice.

Our offices cover Leamington, Coventry, Nuneaton, and Southam. Contact Sarah Ingram, Solicitor, Family Department on 01926 356045 or email to make an appointment today.



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