Unmarried Couples

Cohabitation Agreements

Couple sat at table signing documents

Cohabitation Agreements

Navigating the intricacies of cohabitation agreements requires the expertise of specialists well-versed in this unique area of family law. At Walker Family Law, we focus exclusively on family law and have extensive experience in handling cases related to cohabitation agreements, ensuring the rights and interests of unmarried couples are protected.

What are Cohabitation Agreements?

Cohabitation agreements, also often referred to as ‘living together agreements’, serve as vital legal instruments for unmarried couples who jointly own a property or share financial interests. These agreements establish clear guidelines and expectations regarding ownership, occupation, and financial responsibilities, providing a solid framework for a harmonious cohabitation and avoiding future disputes. 

The agreement may, for example, specify that if the relationship should break down, the family home will be sold and the net proceeds divided according to the agreed proportions. Alternatively, if there are dependent children, the agreement could state that the primary carer will remain in the home with the children until they grow up. 

There are numerous options for what the parties may agree upon regarding the family home in the event of a relationship breakdown. It all hinges on what is deemed most appropriate, considering the particular circumstances of each case. 

The agreement may also deal with what should happen to any other jointly owned assets on relationship breakdown, and who should be responsible for the payment of any joint debts. 

If there are dependent children, the living together agreement can specify arrangements for their care after a separation. This includes determining which parent the children will live with, outlining visitation rights for the non-custodial parent, and establishing provisions for child maintenance, if necessary. 

A cohabitation or living together agreement isn’t solely about planning for a break up. It can also address practical matters like shared expenses throughout the relationship. Essentially, it is a customisable tool where you and your partner can outline whatever arrangements best suit your needs and circumstances. 

Why do you need a cohabitation agreement?

There are two main reasons for seeking a cohabitation or living together agreement. 

The first reason is to establish clarity regarding the outcomes in the event of a relationship break down. Without an agreement navigating arrangements for children and property becomes uncertain and may necessitate court intervention, potentially resulting in unpredictable outcomes. 

The second reason pertains to the limitations of the law in addressing the financial aspects of cohabiting relationships. In particular, a cohabitee cannot claim financial support from their former partner, in the same way that they could if they had been married. This may lead to considerable unfairness and financial challenges for the financially vulnerable partner. 

A cohabitation agreement can therefore be used to achieve these limitations by enabling fair financial arrangements similar to those that normally available in divorce proceedings. 

Is a cohabitation agreement legally binding?

A cohabitation agreement must be legally binding to hold any significance. 

A cohabitation or living together agreement is a legal contract that the court typically recognises, given that it meets the necessary legal requirements and demonstrates fairness in its terms. If both parties took independent legal advice before signing the agreement, it significantly enhances the likelihood that the court will uphold it. 

Note that if your circumstances change after you entered into a cohabitation agreement, for example, if you have children or purchase property together, then that may have a bearing upon the legal status of the agreement. You should therefore seek legal advice upon any changes that may be required to the agreement.

Obtaining a cohabitation agreement

A cohabitation agreement can be a complex legal document, so it is essential to seek expert legal advice. This ensures the agreement accurately reflects the agreed terms and is more likely to be upheld by the court. 

Typically, each party instructs a lawyer to negotiate or finalise the terms of the agreement, or confirm them, if they have already been agreed. 

Both parties must disclose full details of their financial circumstances, so that their lawyers can advise whether any proposed terms are fair. 

Once the terms of the agreement have been agreed, one party’s lawyer will draft the agreement and send it to the other party’s lawyer for approval. Once both parties agree on the wording, a formal copy is prepared for signing, with each party signing in the presence of a witness. 

How We Can Help

Whether you are navigating a cohabitation agreement dispute or have questions about your rights and responsibilities as an unmarried couple, our team is dedicated to providing the expert support and advice you need. 

We will manage all the legal aspects of your case, attentively listening to your needs and concerns while offering comprehensive legal support in creating a cohabitation agreement. From drafting to preparing legal documentation or other contracts that clearly define ownership rights and responsibilities. 

Contact our team today to schedule a consultation and take the first step to resolution. 

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