Home Agreements Can you draft your own cohabitation agreement?

Can you draft your own cohabitation agreement?

Many couples will live together for many years and even raise a family without ever getting married.

But if the relationship fails, cohabiting couples have far fewer protections compared to married couples.

Let’s look at what a cohabitation agreement is, when it’s used and if you can draft your own agreement.

Contents

    Drawing up a cohabitation agreement can help to prevent disputes in the event of a breakup – but can couples draft their own agreement?

    What exactly is a cohabitation agreement?

    A cohabitation agreement, also known as a ‘no-nups’ or a ‘living together agreement’, defines the financial arrangements of non-married couples living together.

    It is designed to prevent disputes arising if the relationship breaks down, and provides some degree of protection for each party.

    The main elements of a cohabitation agreement will:

    • List the assets which belong to each party (eg savings, shares)
    • List any shared assets and debts (eg joint property and mortgages)
    • Set out the intentions of how assets and debts should be divided up in the event the relationship ends

    Can you draft your own cohabitation agreement?

    A cohabitation agreement can either be drawn up by a solicitor (which can be expensive) or else there are various templates available online which require some element of DIY.

    Although it is possible to draft your own cohabitation agreement, there are certain conditions that must be met to make a cohabitation legally enforceable, namely:

    • Both parties need to enter into the agreement freely and voluntarily
    • The agreement must be set out in the form of a deed and signed by each party in the presence of witnesses
    • Each party should receive independent legal advice on the agreement

    Divorce Online can draw up a legally valid cohabitation agreement for a fixed fee of £599.00.

    Why should we bother making an agreement?

    Unlike married couples, unmarried cohabiting couples do not have any financial protection in the UK. There is no such thing as ‘common law marriage’.

    If the relationship breaks down this can leave one party in a dire situation if they have no assets of their own.

    A cohabitation agreement can go some way to rectifying this situation, providing an element of legal protection. We will take a look at a couple of scenarios that demonstrate the difference between splitting up with and without a living together agreement:

    Example 1: no cohabitation agreement

    John and Amanda have been living together for 5 years. John owns the house where they live and he pays the mortgage in full. He also has £50,000 in his own personal savings account. Amanda does not work and relies on John financially. They do not have a cohabitation agreement.

    When they split up, Amanda is not entitled to any share of the house and she has to move out.

    She has no savings of her own and cannot claim any of John’s savings. Amanda has to move back in with her parents until she can find herself a job and get on her own feet.

    Example 2: with a cohabitation agreement

    Mel and Tony have been living together for 5 years. Mel owns the house where they live and she pays the mortgage in full. She also has £50,000 in her own personal savings account.

    Tony does not work and relies on Mel financially. They have a cohabitation agreement that specifies that they will split all their assets 50:50 in the event of a breakup.

    When they split up, Tony is entitled to 50% equity in the house; this is sold and they share the proceeds. Tony can also claim £25,000 of Mel’s savings. With the savings and proceeds from the house sale, Tony is able to buy his own house.

    What can be included within a living together agreement?

    Some of the things which can be included in a cohabitation agreement include:

    • Who owns what (e.g. savings, shares, equity in property)
    • How should assets and debts be divided if the couple split up
    • How should household expenses be shared during the period of cohabitation
    • What are the financial responsibilities of each party regarding any children
    • What happens to the shared home in the event of a breakup (eg should it be sold and proceeds split between the parties)

    This post was written by Mark Keenan. Editor of the Divorce Online Blog and Managing Director of Online Legal Service Ltd. Mark has been writing about divorce and related subjects for over 20+ years and is an expert in legal marketing.

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