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Co-Habitation Agreements

View profile for James Wright
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The law in England and Wales in relation to married and unmarried couples is vastly different. 

The often referred to phrase of “common law man and wife” is a common misconception which simply does not exist.  Many people believe that as part of an unmarried couple they have the same rights as a married couple.  This is unfortunately simply not the case.  The law treats married and unmarried couples very differently. 

When an unmarried couple separate there are significantly less options open to them to seek financial help from the other party.  This often leaves the financially weaker party in a financially vulnerable position, without the same options to redress the balance which are available to married parties.

Unmarried couples should consider entering into a co-habitation agreement, which will set out who owns what and in what proportion and also allows an agreement to be put down in writing as to how the parties will split their assets if they separate in the future.  The co-habitation agreement also allows couples to set out from the start of their relationship how they wish to manage their day to day finances, particularly in terms of how they will pay the bills and in what proportion.  For example, the parties might agree to pay towards their finances proportionately to their individual incomes.

It is not too late for couples who are already in a co-habiting relationship, without a co-habitation agreement, to enter into an agreement with their partner in case the worse should happen and they separate at some point in the future.  All couples starting co-habitation should seriously consider entering into a co-habitation agreement before committing often substantial financial resources to the relationship.

Another huge benefit of a co-habitation agreement is in relation to couples who purchase a property together.  Together with a Declaration of Trust, a co-habitation agreement can provide certainty over what proportion each party owns of the property.  Many first time buyers rely on help from parents and other family members to raise their deposits.  A co-habitation agreement and Declaration of Trust can protect the money loaned towards the deposit for the property purchase.  This can be particularly important if one party or their family are providing a greater share of the deposit.  Without this consideration at the time of purchase, one party or their family could be significantly out of pocket if the relationship sadly ends without an agreement in place. 

Parties can spend considerable legal fees trying to resolve issues after separation, where a co-habitation agreement would prevent this and give parties piece of mind as they go forward with their relationship. 

Although the thought of a co-habitation agreement could be considered to be a little unromantic, it can prevent considerable upset , loss of monies and legal expense, whilst providing some financial security at what can be a difficult and emotional time when a relationship ends.

Talbots Law has a specialist Family Law Department who can assist anybody who is starting out in a relationship or indeed has been in a relationship for some time but does not have a co-habitation agreement.

Talbots Law Limited provides straightforward legal advice, often by way of a ‘fixed fee’, providing clarity and certainty to clients in relation to their legal fees.