Cohabitation Agreements

Couples who live together but do not marry can still have similar rights to married couples,  despite the Government’s U-turn on giving cohabiting couples more rights, says the Law Society

The Law Society has stated that despite the Government’s decision to drop plans to give couples that live together similar rights to married couples, unmarried couples can sign a cohabitation agreement which would give them stronger rights should their partner die or should the couple separate.

The Law Society guidance states that cohabitation agreements which are drafted by a solicitor could potentially put cohabiting couples in a better legal position than their married counterparts should the relationship breakdown. Under current law cohabitation agreements can be prepared for hetrosexual as well as same sex couples.

Law Society President John Wotton said“Although the Government has chosen not to legislate to give cohabiting couples the same rights as married couples, couples can sit down with their solicitor and draft a cohabitation agreement which caters for all eventualities. Unlike pre-nuptial agreements for married couples, cohabitation agreements are recognised by the courts in England & Wales as being legally binding. It is not yet established that pre-nuptial agreements for married couples are binding in the courts In light of the Government’s decision not to give live-in couples the same rights as married couples, there is perhaps a greater need for cohabiting couples to make these agreements as they do not have the same automatic protections as married couples. For example, when a spouse dies their husband or wife gains ownership of their estate in the absence of a will.”

Cohabiting couples should seek legal advice from their solicitor when drafting cohabitation agreements, as often there is more than a home that needs to be considered. Child care and other assets need to be taken into account, as well as property rights.

The Society also urges cohabiting couples, in the absence of protections under intestacy laws, to write wills to ensure their partner does not go without should they pass away. Without a will it is possible someone could end up with nothing from their partner’s estate.

The Law Society provides guidance to couples living together in their article Setting up Home with Your Partner

If you are considering entering into a cohabitation agreement with your partner, telephone us on 020 8401 7352 for a free telephone consultation and guidance or, to book an appointment.

Link to our page on Cohabitation Agreements

Telegraph article: How unmarried couples can have greater legal rights than husbands and wives (13.09.11)