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Why have a Cohabitation Agreement?

Having a cohabitation agreement drawn up can help to set down some practical guidelines for the relationship between you and your partner. Thinking these things through early on should make things much clearer and less painful in the event of a break up.

Everyone's personal situation is different, which means that each agreement will be different. Some of the things you should consider including in a cohabitation agreement are:

  1. The purpose of your agreement: do you intend the agreement to be legally binding or merely a statement of your expectations?
  2. The length of time the agreement will cover.
  3. Arrangements for children - for example, arrangements for maintenance if you should separate; agreement on having contact.
  4. How you will treat property owned by either of you at the beginning of the relationship.
  5. Will property acquired during cohabitation be shared equally or in proportions set out in the agreement?
  6. How will you deal with debts you have at the beginning of the relationship? It is advisable to make a statement of what each currently owes.
  7. Inheritance and wills - what, if anything, will you leave to each other (although it is still important that you both make a will).
  8. How you will resolve disagreements - for example, via professional mediation or a named mutually agreed mediator.

In the event of a break up, if you are not able to sort matters out amicably, and you find you are in dispute over how to work things out, you will need to use the cohabitation agreement in a legal setting. It is a type of "contract" and it is important that it meets certain legal criteria that apply to all contracts.

It is important to remember that although courts are showing more willingness to take account of such agreements, there is still no certainty that a cohabitation agreement will be enforced. To avoid allegations of duress or undue influence, the parties to a cohabitation agreement should have independent legal advice and the agreement should be made after the parties exchange full and frank disclosure. This is particularly important if the terms of the agreement seem to favour one party over the other. Otherwise, it may be argued that one of you tried to disadvantage the other unfairly.

For further advice on making a Cohabitation Agreement, please contact one of the Family team at GoodyBurrett LLP on 01206 577676.