What is a Cohabitation Agreement?

A Cohabitation Agreement is a document that sets out the legal rights and responsibilities of unmarried couples who are living together. They are also sometimes known as ‘living together’ agreements, and generally focus on how money, property and other assets will be split, should the relationship end in the future.

Who are Cohabitation Agreements for?
Cohabitations Agreements are for couples in a relationship who are living together, or who are about to start living together. They are not for married couples. If you are married or about to get married and would like something similar to a Cohabitation Agreement, you should think about getting a Prenuptial Agreement.

What does a Cohabitation Agreement do?
A Cohabitation Agreement allows you and your partner to decide what will happen in the event that your relationship breaks down. Typically, a Cohabitation Agreement will focus on the financial aspects of your relationship. This means you can determine exactly who will be entitled to keep certain assets, how assets will be divided, and how any debts are to be shared.
A Cohabitation Agreement cannot deal with parenting issues and child support, unless it is made because you have separated (but are still living together).

Why get a Cohabitation Agreement?

It can seem very unromantic to get a Cohabitation Agreement. You may also feel like your relationship is a strong and happy one, making it a futile exercise. But you never know what the future may bring, and if you do not get a Cohabitation Agreement, it can make things very messy if your relationship does run into difficulties later down the line.

Firstly, you will have to decide how assets and debts will be split at a time when emotions are running high. This can result in decisions and actions that leave you extremely vulnerable. For instance, one person may move out and refuse to keep paying the mortgage, leaving the other at risk of financial ruin, mortgage repayment arrears and even repossession.

Secondly, you might believe there is a clear divide as to who owns what. Yet in the eyes of the law, it is not always as black and white as you might think, and the other person may have a claim over assets that you have brought into the relationship. If you dispute this, you will have to embark on a legal battle that may well end up in court.

A Cohabitation Agreement can help prevent such circumstances arising, as these decisions will already have been made in advance of your relationship ending. Also, these decisions will have been made when the feeling between you was amicable, meaning they will not be tainted by bias or ill will.

Of course, you may make a Cohabitation Agreement and never need it. But it is a lot more prudent to create one just in case, as it will make the end of your relationship much easier. It can help to protect your financial assets.

How do I make a Cohabitation Agreement?
A Cohabitation Agreement is a legal document that must be made in writing. Each person must sign the document in front of an independent witness. Before signing, each person must get independent legal advice to ensure the agreement is fair, and that they fully understand the terms of the agreement. This means you will need to see separate family law solicitors.

Will a Cohabitation Agreement be enforced?
If a Cohabitation Agreement is fair and reasonable to each person, and each person sought independent legal advice before signing the document, it is likely to be enforced by a court. But if these criteria are not adhered to, or one person did not fully disclose their assets before signing the agreement, it may be disregarded.

How to get a Cohabitation Agreement BC
If you would like to get a Cohabitation Agreement, or you would like to find out a little more about them, please do not hesitate to contact us at North Shore LLP. Our family law solicitors can provide further information about Cohabitation Agreements, and if required, can help you put a legally sound agreement in place.

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