Cohabitation Agreements

An unmarried couple can enter into an agreement setting out the arrangements which will apply while they are living together, as well as establishing rights on the breakdown of a relationship.

We recognise that parties who are seeking to live and form a life together find this a difficult subject to broach. However the reality is, in light of the increasing number of unmarried couples now living together, such agreements are now very common.

In our experience, a little bit of time discussing matters at the outset and reaching an amicable agreement could save a considerable amount of time, anxiety and expense should the relationship sadly break down in the future.

The main issues that could be covered in a Cohabitation Agreement are as follows:

  • Ownership of property
  • Ownership of other assets
  • Responsibility for bills

Cohabitation Agreements are currently governed by general principles of the Law of contract and it is important that they are drafted correctly in order to ensure that they are binding.

Cohabitation Disputes

Due to the recent downturn in the housing market, more and more people are purchasing properties with not only partners, but friends or family members.

Many unmarried couples live with the assumption that if they cohabit for a number of years they have similar legal rights to those couples that are married. This myth is normally referred to as ‘common law wife or husband’.

This is not the case and the Court does not take into account the length of time you have lived together or even whether one of the parties has contributed to the household by raising children and being responsible for the running of the family home.

This causes a problem when a property is in the sole name of one of the parties. If the property is registered in the sole name of one of the parties, the person who is not named will have to prove that they are entitled to an interest in it.

There are various ways to show that you have an interest in the property:

  • The owner of the property told you that you have an interest when the property was purchased or when you moved into the property. You should also be able to show that you have contributed to the property by financial payments i.e. payment of or towards the household bills or the mortgage.
  • By way of implied intention. Intention can be ‘implied’ if the other party has contributed towards the purchase price usually by the way of contributions towards the mortgage or the deposit of the property. The Court may find implied intention when the parties finances are simply pooled and all household payments are met from that account.
  • If you have provided a substantial contribution to the property for example by paying for a home improvement.

Disputes also arise when the property has been registered in joint names. These disputes tend to arise when one person refuses to leave the property or refuses to agree to the sale of the property, stopping the parties being able to move on following separation.

Advice can be given as to each of your rights in respect of access to the property, how to force a sale without the consent of the other party or even on purchasing the other party’s interest in the property.

Abacus Solicitors has a specialist team who are able to advise and assist you in relation to any cohabitation dispute you may have.

For an initial discussion or to make an appointment with Paul Ireland, call 01925 210999 or email p.ireland@abacus-law.co.uk