Under UK law, a couple who live together have no rights to each other’s property. There is no such thing as a ‘Common Law Marriage’ in the UK. This is important to emphasise because statistics show around 58% of people mistakenly believe that if you live with someone you have some rights over:
- Their property
- Their pension
- Their estate of they die without drawing up a will
The short answer is you may not have any rights to the above if you have not signed a legally binding cohabitation agreement. This can be devastating news to hear if you are separating from someone you have lived and shared your life with for many years.
What is a Cohabitation Agreement?
A cohabitation agreement is a contract made by a couple (either heterosexual or gay) which sets out how they will divide their property in the event of a separation. It can also describe how they will manage their finances during the relationship.
What is Contained in a Cohabitation Agreement?
Examples of what information you may wish to include in a cohabitation agreement include:
- How you will divide any property you have brought together if you separate. If you own a family home jointly the Court will divide the home 50/50 if you decide to go your separate ways, even if one party contributed more to its purchase and maintenance. You need to stipulate exactly how you wish your home to be divided between you. The agreement also needs to cover pensions, savings, furniture and pets.
- How you will manage your finances while you are living together. Who will pay for the heating, car maintenance etc. For example, if one party already owns a home and does not want their partner having a claim to it if they separate, they may specify that they pay the mortgage and maintenance costs themselves in order to avoid any disputes over who has contributed more to the property in the event of a separation.
- How joint bank accounts and any credit cards will be managed.
- How debts and inheritances will be managed (you will also need to organise a valid Will)
- How any children you have together will be educated, and any particular cultural or religious practices you both with to have continued by the other parent in the event of a separation.
Is a Cohabitation Agreement Legally Enforceable?
If the agreement is entered into freely, with both parties receiving independent legal advice, and the document is drawn up by a qualified lawyer, then it is likely that the courts will enforce the agreement.
Let Us Help You Draft Your Cohabitation Agreement
If you would like to talk to someone about whether a cohabitation agreement is for you, or you wish to have some independent advice, or have an agreement drawn up, then please phone our office on 01444 235 232 to make an appointment to see one of our lawyers. Alternatively, you can fill in our contact form and we will be in touch shortly.