What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

As experts at family law we often find ourselves being asked ‘What is a cohabitation agreement?’ This is because it’s no longer the case that the only option available to couples who wish to enter into joint arrangements. A cohabitation agreement is an low key means via which a couple can formalise their relationship. As the name suggests, a cohabitation agreement deals with the details of a couple’s life when they are living together, but can also set out an agreement on what will happen if the relationship ends. An agreement of this kind can be created at any point in a relationship, and doesn’t have to take place at the beginning.  

Why create a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement provides a degree of certainty over a range of issues. It also accepts, unromantic as this may seem, that the couple in question may one day split up. The agreement helps to protect the assets each couple brought to the relationship as well as setting out how those assets acquired during the relationship should be divided. When a couple is married they have the relative certainty of divorce proceedings to fall back on and the knowledge that a court will rule on any disputed issue. A cohabitation agreement makes any dispute far less likely while also providing a written, legally binding basis upon which to settle any disagreement which does arise.

What might be included in a cohabitation agreement?

Each cohabitation agreement will arise through a process of discussion and negotiation between the partners involved and their respective legal advisors. Each will therefore be a unique contract, but the issues likely to feature include the following:

  • Financial support during or after the relationship
  • How assets will be distributed in the event of a break up
  • How the principal residence will be divided following a death or break up
  • Issues around the support or custody of dependent children (although these may be modified or rejected outright by a court if they are not felt to represent the best interests of the child)
  • The creation of power of attorney to allow partners to make decisions on behalf of each other in the event of incapacity

How will we create a cohabitation agreement?

Both partners will require independent legal advice. This is the point at which the services of Higgins Miller, with our background in family law and matters such as divorce, mediation and financial settlements, can prove so vital. The agreement can be through correspondence or in face to face meetings at which your representatives are present. The process should take place in a friendly and non-hostile atmosphere.  

What will I have to disclose?

In order for a cohabitation agreement to be effective, both partners will need to make a full financial disclosure of their financial situation.

What are the possible risks of not drawing up a cohabitation agreement?

You may feel that drawing up an agreement of this kind is somehow ‘unromantic’ and presumes a relationship is bound to break down. The truth of the matter is that a cohabitation agreement provides long term stability even if a relationship lasts a lifetime, and dramatically lessens the chance of conflict if a breakdown does occur. It will reduce the risk of argument and legal dispute in the event of a break up and offers the certainty of a contract, as opposed to the risk and uncertainty of any court action.

How much will it cost?

The costs of an agreement will vary depending upon the complexity of the assets and issues involved, and therefore the length of time it takes to reach an agreement. If you’d like to explore the question of what is a cohabitation agreement? Or any of the issues surrounding it, please contact us. You can telephone on 0161 429 7251 or email us at [email protected] . An initial appraisal, over the phone or face to face, will be provided free of charge, and if we do go on to represent you then there are a range of funding options on offer. Full details of our pricing structure can be found here.


November 28, 2017


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