It is commonly accepted that many couples live together without marrying or entering into a civil partnership, irrespective of their sexual orientation. Unmarried couples who live together do not have the same legal rights as individuals who are a married couple or in a civil partnership.
Cohabitants do not acquire any specific legal rights even after living together for several years. In an event where a relationship has broken down or death occurs, either party’s position could be irreparably unfair as there are no specific terms to support either party’s rights or interests in these circumstances. In most cases, the high level of uncertainty can be reduced by forming a cohabitation agreement.
A cohabitation agreement regulates the terms of a cohabiting couple that live together and addresses what would happen should a relationship irretrievably breaks down. This type of agreement can also be used to clearly set out how a cohabiting couple will manage day-to-day finances and how much each contributes to rent, mortgage and bills.
It is mainly important for financial rights to be protected when moving in with your partner or currently cohabiting with them. There needs to be a consideration on what would happen with certain assets and the home if a couple were to split up.
For instance, a property may be owned jointly, therefore equity would more often be divided equally unless ownership documentation says otherwise. However, one party may decide that an equal divide would be unfair due to the unequal contribution towards the purchase of the home, therefore this would need to be clearly stated in the cohabitation agreement.
The agreement will not only focus on financial aspects of a cohabiting couple but will also cover support to children if there are any involved.
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