Personal Law
July 25, 2017

Cohabitation agreements: what are they and do I need one?

Senior Family Solicitor, Anila Naeem answers the most frequently asked questions about cohabitation agreements.

In England and Wales, when married couples divorce or civil partners separate, both parties have a legal right to maintenance and their share of assets, including property and inherited property. Cohabiting couples have no such rights, regardless of the number of years they have been together and whether they have children.

As the law stands, the only solution for cohabiting couples who want legal protection should they split up is either to marry or enter a civil partnership, or to draw up a cohabitation agreement.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a binding contract between you and your partner that sets out:

(a) How you intend to manage your financial affairs whilst living together

(b) What should happen in the event that your relationship breaks down


Do I need one?

Cohabitation agreements are increasingly popular as more and more couples are living together, and want to protect their individual assets and income in the event that their relationship should break down.

A cohabitation agreement provides certainty and can save costly legal fees should the cohabitation come to an end.

A cohabitation agreement can record details such as:

  • Who owns what at the start of a relationship.
  • How any property acquired during the relationship will be owned.
  • Who will be responsible for mortgage and other household expenses.

A cohabitation agreement can also provide a framework for what will happen if the relationship were to break down and can record details such as:

  • How the equity in the property will be divided.
  • Ownership of joint and separate personal property.
  • The financial support between cohabitees and the living arrangements and financial provision for children.

Are cohabitation agreements legally binding?

Yes, if they are done properly. The agreement will be signed as a deed and will be contractually binding. To ensure the best chance of the cohabitation being upheld and enforced by the Court if it were to be subsequently challenged, it is important that:

  • The parties enter into the agreement freely and voluntarily.
  • Both have the benefit of independent, competent legal advice.

When should a cohabitation agreement be drawn up?

A cohabitation agreement can be drawn up before the parties move in together or whilst they are living together.

What are the risks if I do not have a cohabitation agreement?

  • Expensive and protracted legal proceedings in the event of separation.
  • Uncertainty and risks should matters not be settled and the Court needs to intervene.

How much will a cohabitation cost?

The cost will vary depending on the complexity of the assets and issues involved and also the time spent in negotiating the terms of the agreement. If you and your partner are able to agree the terms between you then the costs will be significantly lower. We offer an initial appointment at a fixed fee of £75 inclusive of VAT.


For a confidential discussion about cohabitation agreements, please contact Anila Naeem, Senior Family Solicitor at Berry & Lamberts Solicitors by telephone on 01732 460565 or by email on:

The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since this article was published. Readers should not act on the basis of the information included and should take appropriate professional advice upon their own particular circumstances.

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