What is a Living Together Agreement?
A Living Together Agreement, or Cohabitation Agreement, does what it says on the tin. It is a legal agreement between a couple who live together but have either not contemplated marriage or have decided not to marry.
The agreement will set out how the couple intend to organise their living arrangements including with regard to assets, income and child arrangements, both when living together and in the event of their separation.
The latest figures from Office of National Statistics [ONS] show that the number of cohabiting households is on the rise.
“Married and civil partnered couple families remain the most common family type, but this is a declining trend in the UK, as more people choose to live together before, or without, getting married”ONS: Families and households in the UK: 2020 – Statistician’s comment
Why do I need a Living Together Agreement?
The law puts in place claims and protections for married individuals. Such protections and claims do not exist for cohabiting persons. Although it remains a widely-held belief, there is no such thing as a “common law spouse”.
Given the increase in number of cohabiting households, many have called for the law to be updated to give some security to unmarried couples and an Inquiry is underway by the Women and Equalities Committee.
What would happen, for example, if you lived with your partner in a property they either owned or rented in their sole name? If there was no other agreement in place, then you would have no automatic right to be able to live there if asked to leave or to receive a share of the sale proceeds is the property was sold.
Unlike when dealing with married couples, the Courts can only decide who owns the property (and in what shares) based on clear intentions or actual contributions.
The first thing the Court will look at is whose name is on the Title. If your name doesn’t appear, and there’s no other agreement, trying to prove contributions and intentions is difficult – and litigation can be costly.
A Living Together Agreement can offer some security for cohabiting couples.
What’s in a Living Together Agreement?
A Living Together Agreement can include almost anything the couple have agreed. Usually, it will include agreements on:
- Property or possessions owned by the couple, either jointly or individually, before they move in together.
- Property or possessions owned by the couple, either jointly or individually, after they move in together.
- How household expenses, including the mortgage, are to be paid.
- What co-parenting will look like in the event that the relationship breaks down.
- A review clause, usually in the event of a significant change of circumstances as well as on a regular basis, e.g. every 5 years.
Are Living Together Agreements legally binding?
It is not known to what extent Living Together Agreements are legally enforceable because the Courts are yet to provide a conclusive answer.
Living Together Agreements are, however, thought to be legally binding insofar as they are a contract between two individuals. The better drafted the Living Together Agreement is, the easier enforcement should be. Ultimately, however, a Court can determine how much weight to attach to a Living Together Agreement in the event that there is a dispute.
It is important that both individuals take independent legal advice before entering a Living Together Agreement.
If are interested in having a Living Together Agreement or if you need advice about your position as a cohabitee, please get in touch with our Family Department via firstname.lastname@example.org or contact Sigourney directly: SLee-Smith@se-solicitors.co.uk or 01869 222324.
*Disclaimer: While everything has been done to ensure the accuracy of the contents of this article, it is a general guide only. It is not comprehensive and does not constitute legal advice. Specific legal advice should be sought in relation to the particular facts of a given situation. The information is accurate at date of publication, 26th of October 2021.