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Moving in together: getting a cohabitation agreement

  • A cohabitation agreement is a legal document between unmarried couples who are living together. It sets out arrangements for finances, property and children while you're living together and if you split up, become ill or die.

    You can make an agreement at any time. It’s good to do it before you move in together. But you may want to consider one if you decide to have children or get a mortgage. Without one you do not have many rights.

    A family law solicitor can help you prepare a cohabitation agreement and make sure it is legally binding.

    Cohabitation agreements can also be made between people who are not romantically involved – for example, friends or siblings.

    Reasons for a cohabitation agreement

    You don’t automatically have rights like married couples – even if you’ve lived together for a long time and have children.

    So having a legal document like a cohabitation agreement can be useful, alongside a will, if one of you becomes seriously ill, dies or if you split up. It will protect you both, and any other family members who’ll be affected.

    For example, an agreement can make sure you have:

    • a share of each others’ assets
    • access to each others’ state pension
    • next of kin rights in a medical emergency

    Find out what your cohabitation rights are without an agreement.

    A cohabitation agreement can also help you divide up bills and other responsibilities while you live together.

    Before you start

    You and your partner should look at your assets and discuss how you’d want them to be divided. Your assets could include:

    • property
    • investments
    • pension
    • savings

    You’ll also need to gather documents for a solicitor. They may ask you to bring any relevant paperwork.

    Going to a solicitor

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    When you contact your solicitor, they may ask about:

    • the value of both of your assets, like savings, investments, pensions
    • if you rent or own a property, and whose name the property is in
    • any property improvement work either of you have paid for
    • both of your earnings
    • if you or your partner have any children

    Your solicitor may suggest one of you gets advice from a separate solicitor before signing the agreement. This makes sure it protects both of your interests, and reflects what you both want.

    Your solicitor can tell you how long the whole process should take, this could be a few weeks.

    You may also like to talk to your solicitor about making a will if you have not already made one.

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    If you are feeling pressure to sign a legal agreement, talk to someone confidentially to get support.

    Costs

    The cost of getting an agreement can vary depending on your circumstances. This could be anything between £300 and £4,000. A solicitor will give you a free estimate and it’s worth shopping around and comparing the costs and services.

    You may have to pay much more in legal fees if something goes wrong and you don’t have a cohabitation agreement.

    Change of circumstances

    If your circumstances change, for example, you have children, buy property together or move to another country, contact your solicitor. They can advise you of any changes you may need to make to your agreement.

    Your agreement may not be legally binding if you don’t update it when your circumstances change.

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