Many people choose not to marry and instead cohabit, or live with their partners, and describe themselves as common law husband and wife. Unfortunately there is no such thing as a common law marriage and cohabiting couples do not have equivalent rights as married couples. As such, we advise any couple living or planning to live together to enter into a Cohabitation Agreement from the start, setting out how financial issues and property ownership would be resolved or divided should the couple separate at a later date.
WHAT IS A COHABITATION AGREEMENT?
A cohabitation agreement records the intentions of two or more people that are planning on living together. This can include such things as each parties rights and responsibilities in relation to the property, financial arrangements between them whilst they are living together and financial arrangements between them if and when they cease living together. It can also detail what would happen to certain things such as art, furniture and/or cars which might be jointly used when parties live together but which only one person will retain when they move out.
A cohabitation agreement is a really good way of detailing how you intend to own both the legal and beneficial interests in a property. This will help to avoid future litigation if you no longer wish to live together but cannot agree as to who owns what.
Cohabitation agreements can be very flexible and record whatever either party wants to be recorded. For example, cohabitation law does not currently provide for one person to pay ongoing maintenance to their partner if their relationship breaks down. Some couples may decide they would like for it to be recorded in a cohabitation agreement that they do intend for ongoing maintenance to be paid.
Cohabitation agreements are also a really good way to protect any financial assets which you are concerned that someone that you are intending to cohabit with might make a claim against in the future.
DECLARATION’S OF TRUST
If you are buying a property with someone else as tenants in common, a declaration of trust should be entered into in addition to a cohabitation agreement.
A declaration of trust will record your respective beneficial interests in the property. In contrast a cohabitation agreement can include not just a declaration of trust but will go on to deal with a wider range of issues such as:
- How the mortgage and household expenses should be paid, by whom and in what proportions.
- How and when the property is to be sold.
- Financial support between cohabitees during and after cohabitation ends.
- The living arrangements for both parties and any children if the cohabitation comes to an end.