Next steps for couples living together  – What is a cohabitation agreement?

Next steps for couples living together  - What is a cohabitation agreement?
Photo by Roselyn Tirado on Unsplash
Family Lawyer
Peter Jones
Founder of
Jones Myers
Family Solicitors

Taking tentative steps towards freedom following the lockdown’s first anniversary has re-enforced how challenging and stressful the last year has been for everyone.

This includes the thousands of couples who moved in together during lockdown for practical and financial reasons – and to reduce the risk of passing on the virus.

The emotional rollercoaster sparked by the pandemic has taken its toll on even the most robust relationships – not to mention its devastating economical impact.

Spring is symbolically a time of renewal and, as we readjust to our former lives and freedoms over the coming weeks, we recommend couples who are continuing to live together to protect themselves should they break up.

Cohabiting couples are the fast growing family type in Britain – but, unlike married couples, they do not have any legal protection or rights if their relationship goes sour.

These rights right span savings, income, pensions and business interests and property. In 2020 the Mortgage Advice Bureau saw a 60% year-on-year rise in applications from cohabiting couples, indicating the lockdown had accelerated the moving in process for many.

We urge unmarried partners to consider a cohabitation or ‘living together’ agreement which sets out what they want to happen – both while they live together and if their relationship ends.

The agreement clarifies who owns what and in what proportion. It also includes how property will be divided and what will happen with personal belongings, savings, debts, pensions and other assets.

Documenting how children will be supported, it outlines how to deal with bank accounts, debts and joint purchases such as a house or car and can also address pet ‘custody’ issues.

The agreement can be drafted before or during a couple’s time together. It can likewise be altered as long as both parties agree that the original agreement should be changed, and how.

Agreeing the ‘what if’ scenarios should one partner leave, win the lottery or die, this safeguard can potentially save emotional and financial trauma at a later stage.

The arrangement, which is enforceable, can be set up through virtual ‘round-table’ meetings within the collaborative process and can avoid the likelihood of cohabitees, particularly those with children, being left destitute.

It is important that each party seeks independent legal advice and discloses all financial information in the lead up to signing the agreement, which should be reviewed regularly.

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Peter Jones is one of the country’s leading divorce and family lawyers. A qualified Arbitrator and Mediator, Peter set up Jones Myers as the first niche family law firm in the north of England in 1992 and has acted for a string of high-profile clients.

Renowned for his sympathetic approach, Peter is the current chair of Resolution’s Accreditation Committee, a former national chairman of Resolution and a former Deputy District Judge.

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