Download our guide which shows what could happen with or without a cohabitation agreement
Cohabitation agreement solicitors
If you're unsure whether you need a cohabitation agreement, we can help.
Unmarried couples in England and Wales have no legal rights if they separate. Without a living together contract, one of them could be left with nothing.
We offer fixed fee cohabitation agreements and flexible pricing to suit your circumstances and your budget. Once we have provided you with a fixed price quote for the agreed work, that price will not change.
How much does a cohabitation agreement cost?
Our fixed fee cohabitation agreement costs £1,200 (including VAT).
Included in the fixed fee cohabitation agreement
Our cohabitation agreement service includes: - initial legal advice by consultation or detailed telephone call - legal advice on the implications of signing a cohabitation agreement - informing you of the financial information needed and drafting a schedule setting out your respective financial positions - drafting the cohabitation agreement to reflect the agreement you have reached with your partner
Not included in the fixed fee cohabitation agreement
Our cohabitation agreement service doesn't include: - any work required to implement the terms of the cohabitation agreement for example transferring an interest in property - any negotiations if there is a disagreement (that work would be conducted on an hourly rate basis)
This fixed price living together agreement package is only suitable for: - couples who have already reached an agreement - cases without complicated assets such as property overseas
The package is not available to people with assets of over £1,000,000.
What is a cohabitation agreement?
A cohabitation agreement, also known as a living together agreement or contract, can set out how you and your partner will manage your money matters. You can make a cohabitation agreement at any time.
A cohabitation agreement can cover how you’ll share the rent or mortgage and bills and how to deal with any bank accounts, property or assets if you should separate. A cohabitation agreement also helps agree things in a fair way, without the emotional pressures which can arise when a relationship breaks down.
A cohabitation agreement can strengthen your relationship by lessening the worry about what would happen if you do separate, preventing disagreements and avoiding potentially costly court proceedings.
What can a cohabitation agreement cover?
A cohabitation agreement can cover:
- how each of you contributes to rent, mortgage or household bills
- how each of you will deal with any debts
- the fact that if you own a property each of you may have contributed differently to the deposit
- how you deal with any joint bank accounts
- taking out life insurance on each other
- nominating the other as a beneficiary under a pension
- what would happen to items you’ve bought together like cars and furniture
- what would happen to your pets
- how you will support any children you may have
Can a cohabitation agreement be enforced in court?
Provided you’ve both been honest about your finances and assets, it’s likely that a court would enforce a properly prepared cohabitation agreement as it is a legal contract between you.
If you go on to get married you could consider a pre-nuptial agreement. Although not legally binding, a pre-nuptial agreement would be taken into account by the court in any proceedings between a married couple or civil partners should they separate.
What does cohabiting mean?
Cohabiting in the UK is defined as an unmarried couple who are living together in a long-term relationship, which resembles a marriage. Technically, 'cohabitants' can refer to any number of people who are living together.
A cohabiting couple would be defined as a couple who aren't married but who are living together as a couple.
A significant number of cohabiting couples believe that they are in what would be legally recognised as a 'common law marriage.' This is a risky assumption, with many cohabitees mistakenly believing that if their relationship were to break down or if their partner died, they would be afforded a similar level of legal protection as they would if they had been married.
But in reality, in England and Wales, there is no such thing as a common law marriage. In the eyes of the law their relationship has no formal status. This means that many people living with their partners could potentially risk financial ruin if their partner died or if the relationship ended.
Legal rights of cohabiting couples with children
When a cohabiting couple with children separate, there are legal provisions for any children under the age of 18, but there are no legal protections for the parents. When it comes to dividing the family home, this will fall to property law, and where children are involved, this will be handled under the Children Act 1989.
The Children Act, as may be expected, is very much focused on the needs of the child. This is the law that will be applied to determine maintenance and care needs of the child. The court will take the means of both parents into consideration here, but the purpose of maintenance payments is to ensure the resident parent can provide and care for the child, and this is ultimately as far as it goes. This means that once the maintenance needs of the child have been covered, there is unlikely to be much left over to support the parent.
What's more, if the court rules that the resident parent should remain in the family home with the child, then this will only last until the youngest child reaches 18 years of age. At this point, if the family home is owned in the sole name of the other parent, it will revert to them. Maintenance payments will also cease at this point, meaning that the resident parent could be left with nothing after giving up a career to care for the children.
Is a civil partnership better than cohabiting?
In 2019 civil partnerships became available to mixed sex couples. If you want your relationship to have legal recognition but you don't want to get married, entering into a civil partnership is another option.
A civil partnership offers the same tax allowances, property rights, pension rights and other legal rights as marriage. As the popularity of marriage declines, offering couples an alternative legal option has been seen as an important step forward.
If you are considering entering into a civil partnership, you can make a pre-registration agreement (also called a pre-civil partnership agreement). This works in the same way as a prenuptial agreement.
Cohabitation agreement questions answered
Q) My boyfriend and I have lived together for 20 years and have 3 children, do we have legal rights as ‘common law’ husband and wife?
A) No, living together, even for years, or having children together doesn’t give you the same legal rights as a married couple or civil partners.
Q) My partner and I are thinking of moving in and living together, how can we agree in advance how to deal with our finances?
A) A cohabitation agreement can set out how you will manage your money, including paying the mortgage or rent and bills, and how you’ll deal with bank accounts, property or assets if you later separate.
Q) I’ve lived with my girlfriend for 5 years and we’ve decided to have children but we don’t want to get married. Can we make arrangements about our finances to protect us and the kids if we split up in the future?
A) Yes, a cohabitation agreement can include details about your finances and what the child maintenance arrangements would be if you were to separate.
Q) Is a living together or cohabitation agreement worth the cost?
A) If you and your partner jointly own any property or assets like a house or a car, a living together agreement or cohabitation can avoid potentially costly court proceedings that could arise from deciding how these would be divided up if you separated.
Q) Is a cohabitation agreement valid after marriage?
A) This largely depends on the wording of your cohabitation agreement. Some will state what will happen to the agreement in the event of your marriage, whereas others are silent on the matter. If your cohabitation agreement does not make provisions for your marriage, or is silent on the matter, it might not be upheld if you later get divorced. To avoid uncertainty, it is best to enter into a prenuptial agreement instead.
Q) If we buy a house together as a same sex couple, is getting married or entering a civil partnership the only way we can protect ourselves financially?
A) No, a cohabitation agreement can document details such as if each of you paid a different amount of money towards the deposit, and how the property would be divided if you separate.
Our cohabitation agreement solicitors can also provide legal advice on how to protect children and financial assets in a cohabitation agreement.
About Co-op Legal Services
The family law team at Co-op Legal Services includes specialist family solicitors, divorce solicitors and children law solicitors with Resolution accreditation and accredited experts in child abduction, co-habitation, domestic abuse, property disputes, high net worth money matters and financial advocacy.
Resolution is a national organisation of family lawyers committed to non-confrontational divorce, separation and other family problems.
As part of the Co-op Group, our values of openness, honesty, social responsibility and caring for others are core to the service we provide.
Co-op Legal Services has over 600 staff working in different businesses with offices in Manchester, Bristol, Stratford-upon-Avon, Sheffield and London.