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 what are your unmarried couples rights?
Cohabiting couples have far fewer protections compared to married couples, unless you reside in Scotland where Scottish law treats unmarried couples differently from their counterparts in England or Wales.
In this article, we cover cohabitation laws and advice for couples who reside in England & Wales. So let’s look at what a cohabitation agreement is in more detail, whether you can draft your own cohabitation agreement and probably more importantly, should you?
What exactly is a cohabitation agreement?
In brief, a cohabitation agreement, also known as a No nup Agreement or 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.
What to include in a cohabitation agreement:
- Individual assets which belong to each party – savings, investments etc.
- Shared assets and debts – joint property and/or mortgages & loans
- The intention of how assets and debts should be divided if the cohabiting relationship ends
Drawing up a cohabitation agreement can help to prevent disputes in the event of a breakup.
Can you write your own cohabitation agreement?
By searching on Google for a cohabitation agreement online, you will quickly find a free cohabitation agreement template inviting you to draft your own living together agreement. So yes, you can write your own cohabitation agreement.
Although it is possible to write your own cohabitation contract you should be aware of certain important pre-contract conditions that must be met to make your agreement legally enforceable.
Of course, you can research online first, but even then you also need to be aware that your agreements will only be legally binding if drafted correctly and includes specific legal clauses.
For example, if you or any other parties have a beneficial interest in a property you will need to seek legal advice before drafting the agreement as free templates will not cover this specific legal matter.
Therefore, the more important question is actually “should you write your own cohabitation agreement?”
At the end of the day, if you want a cohabitation agreement that is fit for purpose and likely to be upheld in court then you are well-advised to instruct a cohabitation solicitor to help draft the agreement for you.
If not, you may initially save money at the outset, but it could end up costing you dearly if the agreement doesn’t stand up to scrutiny just when it is needed.
For your complete peace of mind Divorce-Online can draw up a solicitor drafted legally valid cohabitation agreement for a fixed fee of just £599 including VAT. We believe that would be money well spent!
The service provides you with the professional legal advice that you will need to give your contract enforceability with the courts. You will also have your own solicitor who will deal with any queries from opposing solicitors on your behalf.
Do I need a cohabitation agreement?
Unlike married couples, and those in a civil partnership, unmarried couples have very few cohabitation rights or financial protection in England or Wales if they separate.
Spoiler Alert! 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.
In both circumstances, a cohabitation agreement would provide peace of mind if sadly your relationship does not work out as planned. Making a legally binding agreement before or while you are living together whilst not married can potentially save you lots of heartache and money in the future.
What other things can be included in a living together agreement?
Some of the additional things which can be included in a Living Together Agreement include:
- How assets and debts should be divided if the couple split up
- How household expenses should be shared while living together
- Financial responsibilities of each parent regarding their children
- What happens to the home in the event of a breakup – should it be sold and proceeds split between each party, and in what proportion