Cohabitation Agreements

If you’re moving in with your partner but you’re not married, or in a civil partnership, a cohabitation agreement will make sure your financial interests are protected.

It’s very common for couples to live together before they get married or enter into a civil partnership, and some couples don’t want to get married at all.

Unfortunately, the law hasn’t been updated to reflect this. Unmarried couples do not have the same legal rights as married spouses and civil partners, no matter how many years or decades they have been together.

This means if you break up, you don’t have any legal rights to your partner’s property. This could lead to disputes over who owns what and how to split your assets.

A cohabitation agreement (also known as a living together agreement) is a legal document you and your partner (or friend, sibling, or whoever you’re moving in with) can make to set out the financial aspects of your relationship, so you are both on the same page.

A cohabitation agreement can also help you keep your assets safe should you and your partner ever break up.

Our family solicitors can help you make a cohabitation agreement, ensuring that your best interests are protected no matter what the future holds.

Get in touch with our cohabitation agreement solicitors in East Sussex

Our clients come to us from across East Sussex, including Rother and Wealden, for advice about cohabitation and living together.

During our initial meeting, we can provide all the advice you need about cohabitation agreements, so you can decide whether to proceed with making an agreement and what you want to include.

To set up your first meeting, contact your local Heringtons office in Battle, Bexhill on Sea, Eastbourne, Hastings or Rye.

Or fill in our online enquiry form, and we will be in touch shortly.

How our cohabitation agreement lawyers can help

Initial advice about entering into a cohabitation agreement

Unsure about whether a cohabitation agreement is right for you? We can provide clear, practical advice about how you could benefit.

We’ll listen carefully to your situation and provide advice about the kinds of terms you should include in your agreement to fully protect your position.

Advising on the terms of an agreement proposed by your partner

If your partner or someone you live with has presented you with a cohabitation agreement to sign, we can provide advice on the terms and whether they protect your interests.

All parties to a cohabitation agreement should have independent legal advice; otherwise, the agreement is less likely to be upheld in court (if it ever needs to be considered in court). So, seeking legal advice is beneficial to both you and your partner.

Drafting your cohabitation agreement

We’ll draft your cohabitation agreement on your behalf, making sure that the terms fully reflect the realities of your situation.

Updating your cohabitation agreement

You and your partner should regularly review your cohabitation agreement to make sure it continues to reflect your needs. It’s important to update your cohabitation agreement when buying a house or when you have any other major life changes, such as having a baby, starting a business, or buying high value assets (like a new car).

We can help you review and update your cohabitation agreement. We can also provide ongoing advice about the best ways to protect your interests and your family. For example, if you decide to move house, we can also provide conveyancing advice and help you put in place a deed of trust to set out what your share of the property is (visit our Residential Property page for more information).

Resolving cohabitation agreement disputes and other cohabitation advice

If you and your partner decide to break up and a dispute arises, for example, over your respective shares in your home, we can provide practical dispute resolution advice.

If a cohabitation agreement is in place, we can review this and advise on the enforceability of the terms. Otherwise, we’ll advise on your legal rights under other areas of law, such as the claims against your partner’s property.

Cohabitation agreement FAQs

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement – also called a living together agreement – is a legal contract you and your partner can make to set out your financial situation and provide for the split of assets if you break up in the future. A cohabitation agreement can cover things like:

  • How your rent, mortgage and household bills and expenses are paid
  • Who owns your personal belongings, and who should get what if you break up
  • What your shares in your property are and what your respective contributions to the mortgage or home improvements are
  • How you will deal with debts if you break up
  • How you will split any joint bank accounts, savings and investments if you break up
  • Who should keep the pets if you break up

You can also set out intended co-parenting arrangements for your children and how they’ll be financially supported.

Does common law marriage exist in England and Wales?

No. The idea of common law marriage – where you obtain common law rights to your partner’s property if you live together for several years – is a myth in England and Wales.

No matter how long you and your partner have been together, whether it’s a year or a decade, if you aren’t married or in a civil partnership, you don’t have any automatic legal rights in the event that you separate (though you may have rights if your partner passes away).

This can put cohabiting couples at risk of losing everything if they break up. There have been sad cases over the years where couples have been together for decades, only for one partner to lose their home, their shared business and any financial support they used to receive from their partner after the relationship broke down.

A cohabitation agreement can protect your financial interests even if you aren’t married or in a civil partnership.

Can we still enter into a cohabitation agreement if we want to get married in the future?

Yes. Even if you plan on getting married or entering into a civil partnership at some point, it’s important to make sure your financial interests are protected until then by putting in place a cohabitation agreement.

After you get married or enter into a civil partnership, you have more legal rights in respect of your partner’s property, but you will still be encouraged to come to a voluntary arrangement about the division of finances if you ever get a divorce or civil partnership dissolution.

A cohabitation agreement can form a useful basis for any future financial discussions between you. Even if you never need to use it, it can make your financial situation clear, reducing the risk of disputes over money or property arising.

Can I update my cohabitation agreement?

Yes. It’s a good idea to update your cohabitation agreement regularly, so it continues to reflect you and your partner’s circumstances. At the very least, you should review your cohabitation agreement whenever you have a big life event, such as when you:

  • Have a baby or adopt a child
  • Move house
  • Receive a large windfall such as an inheritance payment
  • Retire
  • Get a new job, a promotion or a pay rise
  • Get engaged

What rights do cohabiting couples have when they have children?

Cohabiting couples can have the same rights and responsibilities as married couples and civil partners in relation to their children.

For example, a couple that has a biological child together are both likely to be the child’s legal parents – legal parenthood is the lifelong connection between parent and child that bestows things like inheritance rights, next-of-kin rights and nationality.

Parental responsibility is the rights and responsibilities to take care of your child and make decisions about their upbringing (such as where they should live and where they should go to school). Birth mothers automatically get parental responsibility. Fathers and second parents, guardians and adoptive parents can acquire parental responsibility without getting married. For example, a father can acquire it by putting his name on the birth certificate.

If you would like advice about parenthood and parental responsibility, we are more than happy to speak with you.

Get in touch with our cohabitation agreement solicitors in East Sussex

Our clients come to us from across East Sussex, including Rother and Wealden, for our advice about cohabitation agreements.

For advice about living together, including advice about making a cohabitation agreement, contact your local Heringtons office in Battle, Bexhill on Sea, Eastbourne, Hastings or Rye.

Or fill in our online enquiry form, and we will be in touch shortly.

For further information or to speak to one of our experts please call us on: