Cohabitation Agreements Solicitors
There is a common misapprehension that if two parties are cohabiting they are “common law spouses” and have some entitlement to financial support from the other party upon separation. Unfortunately, this is simply incorrect; despite recommendations made by the Law Commission for reform in this area there is no current body of law which governs the division of assets when unmarried couples break up.
Nevertheless, couples who plan to live together, or who are living together, may choose to regulate their financial arrangements by entering into a formal agreement, usually called a Cohabitation Agreement which is enforceable at law. This type of agreement often deals with the ownership of a house, contributions towards bills and property maintenance, and crucially, what happens when the cohabitation comes to an end through the break- up of the relationship or death.
Is It a Binding Agreement?
For an agreement of this type to be binding it needs to be written in clear, unambiguous language, so that both parties know what their rights and responsibilities are. Both parties should disclose their assets, and if necessary they can be described in a schedule to the agreement, so there is absolute clarity. Both parties should be given the chance to take legal advice on the contents of the agreement, and it should be essentially fair. If these criteria are met, it is very likely that the court will uphold the agreement in the event of a dispute.
Varying or Ending a Cohabitation Agreement
Usually there will be provision in the agreement which permits it to be varied, so long as this is in writing signed by the parties. This is to allow for a change in the parties’ circumstances, say after the birth of a child. However, it may be a good idea to speak to a solicitor before making any changes. If the relationship ends the agreement will describe how joint property is to be shared, including bank accounts, furniture and cars for example, how the house is to be occupied and the terms on which the leaving party is required to vacate. Splitting up from a partner is stressful, so if there is a document which explains clearly what is going to happen it may save a lot of argument.
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If you wish to discuss a cohabitation agreement or an issue arising from cohabitation, please speak to our experienced team today on 01243 778844 (Chichester), 01903 228200 (Worthing) or 01243 864001 (Bognor Regis).