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If you are thinking about moving in with your partner or if you are already living together then you should consider carefully the legal position if the relationship were to break down.

If you are unmarried ‘cohabitees’ then the law can be very complex and messy if you separate. The actions or inactions that you have taken during your relationship may have led to some unintended consequences which could result in a costly and protracted dispute, particularly when in the context of the emotional strain of a relationship ending.

There may be disputes about issues such as the ownership and occupation of the home, who gets what and the wider financial arrangements for you and any children that all need to be considered.

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Cohabitation agreements - agreeing things upfront

In order to take control and avoid problems later on it is a savvy decision to seek to agree matters upfront. You may therefore wish to consider what legal steps should be taken to regulate the terms upon which you are cohabiting with one another.

This can be done in the form of a cohabitation agreement, also known as a ‘living together agreement’. Such an agreement can be entered into either before you start living together or at anytime thereafter. It is best to consider the terms as early as possible to avoid complications.

If you are buying a house together, particularly if you are contributing unequal shares, then you should consider whether a cohabitation agreement would be appropriate in addition to any declaration of trust that you may enter into as part of the conveyancing process. If you are moving into a house that is owned solely by one party, then a cohabitation agreement is likely to be desirable. However, the general advice would be that anyone who lives together with their partner in an unmarried relationship should take advice on whether such an agreement would be suitable for them.

Our approach

When dealing with cohabitation agreements, we can not only draft the appropriate agreement for you, ensuring that it will stand up to legal scrutiny if ever called upon, but can also advise on the issues to be considered and the options you have for dealing with them. This can often flag points that had not previously been considered and help address issues before they become a problem.

A cohabitation agreement will not only make clear what is to happen if the relationship were to breakdown, but will also guide the day-to-day arrangements for how you plan to manage your finances. Many people find that addressing such matters head-on and in a formal agreement removes uncertainty and the potential for conflict within the relationship, which in turn strengthens the relationship from the outset.

We can also work alongside other specialist solicitors in our firm to ensure that the position in relation to what happens if your partner were to die is properly addressed.

We will ensure you are fully informed and can make the best choices to set the relationship on the best path forward. We are mindful that such agreements are entered into with the hope that they are never called upon and that the relationship endures.

While we would always advise that it is prudent to plan for the worst, given the reality of the statistics on relationship breakdown, we will work in a manner that recognises the need to protect what can often be a fledgling relationship.

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