Cohabitation agreements

In the UK, cohabiting couples do not have the same legal protection and rights as married couples or civil partners. Cohabitation agreements therefore provide clarity and protection for those in non-marital relationships, mitigating disputes and misunderstandings over property and financial assets should the relationship come to an end.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a legally binding contract made between unmarried couples who live together. The contract not only determines what will happen to assets in the event of a breakup, but outlines key financial and practical arrangements while cohabiting. These include how living expenses, bills or mortgage payments, and other financial responsibilities are divided between the couple.

When entering into a cohabitation agreement, it is important to consider what will happen if you decide to marry or enter into a civil partnership in the future. For example, you can specify whether the terms of the cohabitation remain in place or if they end on marriage and a prenuptial agreement is drawn up in its place.

We are here to support you. Talk to an experienced cohabitation agreement solicitor today.

What are the benefits of a cohabitation agreement?

The primary benefit of cohabitation agreements is peace of mind. As a legally binding contract, it mitigates the unfair treatment of one person over the other if the relationship ends – particularly important for those who own a home together or who have children.

Protecting property, assets and personal belongings

A cohabitation agreement specifies the ownership structure of property, investments, savings and belongings, and what happens to these assets if the relationship ends. This is particularly beneficial if one partner has made significant financial contributions.

Ensuring the financial security of the family

For cohabiting partners with children, a cohabitation agreement can outline decisions about their upbringing in the event of a separation, including child arrangement and child maintenance, thereby providing stability and security for the family.

Reducing the need for future legal battles

Cohabitation agreements ensure each person understands and agrees their rights and responsibilities, both during the relationship and after separation. This in turn reduces the need for legal action to resolve disputes and disagreements.

What are my rights as a cohabiting partner?

Unmarried couples in the UK are not protected by the same rights as those who are married or in a civil partnership. 

This includes:

Rights to property

Property that is solely owned by one cohabiting partner will remain theirs if the relationship ends. If you have financially contributed to the property however, you can make a claim under the Trusts of Land and Appointment of Trustees Act 1996.

Rights to child maintenance

Both parents, whether married, civil partners or cohabiting, have legal responsibilities and rights regarding their children. This includes financial support and arrangements. If additional financial support beyond child maintenance is required, a Schedule 1 Children Act claim can be made.

Rights to inheritance

Cohabiting couples do not automatically inherit assets or property when their partner dies. It is therefore vital to have a will to specify how assets should be distributed.