Cohabitation agreement solicitors


Cohabitation agreements

Unmarried couples in England and Wales have few legal rights if they separate. A cohabitation agreement helps people in committed relationships protect their interests if the relationship ends.

Despite popular belief, “common law marriage” does not exist and hasn’t for centuries. Cohabitation agreements are legally binding documents that couples living together (but who are not married or in a civil partnership) can use to make clear how they intend to manage their finances whilst they live together and what will happen if their relationship breaks down. A written agreement can prevent a great deal of unpleasantness, stress and cost by avoiding arguments in the first place. 

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The family team at Mills & Reeve have an unrivalled reputation for understanding what matters to our clients and for combining technical expertise with clear advice and excellent client service.  

What do you need to know

A cohabitation agreement (also known as a relationship agreement or a living together agreement) records the agreed arrangements for people who live together (it doesn’t always have to be a couple in a relationship!). They are legally binding if they are entered into properly so specialist legal advice is a must. With the number of couples now cohabiting in the UK rising, cohabitation agreements are becoming increasingly popular.  

Cohabitation agreements typically set out how you intend to manage your finances whilst you live together and provide certainty about how you will divide your finances if you were to split-up. A written agreement can prevent a great deal of emotional and financial cost and avoids arguments in the first place. Cohabitation agreements are very flexible and can cover everything from who pays the rent to who does the household chores!  


Although each cohabitation agreement is different, there are a few key points you should always think about.  

Property owned before moving in together

If one of you already owns property, a cohabitation agreement can be used to protect that property and prevent the other from having a claim over it in the future. If the non-legal owner does make a financial contribution to the property, you may both agree that they should be entitled to a share in the property’s value and the cohabitation agreement can provide for this.

Property bought while living together

If you buy a house together but only one of you is named as the legal owner, your cohabitation agreement can address whether or not the other partner has any entitlement to the property. If you buy a property in joint names, your agreement can clarify your respective shares and it can also provide for who should remain in the property and have the first option to retain it in the event of a separation. 

Household bills

If you and your partner are not joint owners of your home, or one of you contributes more financially than the other, you need to think through the implications of this.

Seek independent legal advice

You should both take independent legal advice to ensure that your agreement is binding and that there is no doubt as to what you are both agreeing to. By doing this, the court is much more likely to to put it into effect if you were to break up and needed the court’s help to resolve a dispute. You will also need to be upfront and honest about your personal finances.  


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