Six reasons why you may need a Cohabitation agreement

Posted 11th July 2024

Moving in together is an important and exciting step in a relationship. Whether you are renting or buying a place together, it is a commitment that is financial as well as emotional. Unlike almost any other financial commitment, cohabiting is one that you are able to do without any formal agreement.

‘While the absence of formality has its attractions, it is important to note that the lack of legal clarity and protection can be problematic for a couple if a dispute should arise in the future,’ says Connor Williams in the family law team with Borneo Martell Turner Coulston. ‘When a cohabiting couple separates, they are often surprised to find that there is no clear legal framework to help unravel any disagreements.’
Connor Williams explains how it is important to consider how to put safeguards in place and outlines six reasons why you may benefit from a cohabitation agreement.

1. Escaping the ‘common law marriage’ trap
Having heard the phrase ‘common law marriage’ being used by older couples or on the media, you might think that a long-term cohabiting gives you all the legal rights enjoyed by a married couple or civil partners.

This is false and nothing more than a myth. There is no such legal concept as a ‘common law marriage’ and, regardless of the length of the relationship, cohabiting couples have no legal financial obligations towards each other if they split up.

2. Obtaining clarity on your legal position
Given that there is no unified law governing what happens when a cohabiting couple splits up, a cohabitation agreement will give you a useful understanding of what your rights (if any) are.

There is no automatic 50/50 split of anything. Your lawyer will consider your personal objectives and the law, and they will help you think through important matters such as:
what happens to any property;
whether or not to expect financial assistance from your ex-partner; and
how any children of the family will be provided for.

3. Protecting a property you own
Moving in together does not necessarily mean that you are making a lifelong commitment just yet, or that you wish to combine all your assets at this time.

If your partner moves into your home, which you legally own in your sole name (or perhaps with other family members), while they will not benefit from an automatic right to a share of the property, they could acquire some rights, known as a ‘beneficial interest’.

A cohabitation agreement is a sound way of safeguarding this asset, as it can confirm that your partner will not gain any legal interest or rights in your property by living there, even if they pay towards the bills or any mortgage.

4. Clarity over how bills will be paid
As with any shared household, it is sensible to agree on who will be paying for what and to what extent. You will want to have clarity on how much you each agree to contribute towards the bills.

5. When one of you is unable to work
When one person is unable to work, a reduction in income can put a great deal of strain on a relationship. In some cases, this might be something you plan together, such as having or adopting children; but it could also be unplanned, such as having accident or serious illness.

6. Confidence and reassurance
Undoubtedly, entering into a cohabitation agreement will provide peace of mind because you have taken steps to organise the logistics of your relationship and you know exactly where you stand on key issues. It will free up time and headspace, allowing you to focus on other areas of your life.

How can we help?
It is never too late to enter into a cohabitation agreement. Whether you are thinking of moving in with your partner or have been living with them for several years already, it is a good idea to explore your options.

If you are interested in finding out more and how to go about it, please contact Connor Williams in the family law team on 01604 622101 or email

Borneo Martell Turner Coulston has offices in both Northampton and Kettering.

*This article is for general information only and does not constitute legal or professional advice. Please note that the law may have changed since this article was published.