Cohabitation and prenuptial agreements

While many are talking about how the lockdown will cause a spike in divorce and separation in the UK, it’s also worthwhile looking at all the couples that have lived together for the first time when making the decision to isolate together.

Some may have found that they moved to early, or have considered the living arrangement temporary, but others may have found themselves now ready for the next step and are planning on moving in together permanently.

When moving in with a partner it may be not be the first thing on your mind, but its important to make arrangements for if things do not work out as you wanted them too. Living together as an unmarried couple will not allow you the same protections as if you were married, and can cause serious problems down the line. For example, where one person owns the house and the other pays the mortgage or most of the mortgage, the person paying the mortgage will not be able to make any claim to the property or equity even if they have lived there for years and can prove the amount they have paid off. Where children are involved matters can even get more complex.

It is therefore highly recommended to couples moving in together for the first time to set up a cohabitation agreement, in which you can set out legally all the agreements you have made in terms of finances and property. In addition, it can cover matters such as debt payments, so one partner doesn’t get stuck with a bill that wasn’t for them, mortgage payments and ongoing household bills. This way both partners know they are protected financially should their partnership not be successful.

Setting up a cohabitation agreement can be compared to setting up a prenuptial agreement (prenup) when you get married. It simply provides you with the security that each person is taken care of if there is a separation and that assets, finances and debts are fairly distributed as agreed.

A family law solicitor can help you to set up your cohabitation agreement, as well as your prenuptial agreement later down the line.

As long as the agreement set out was freely entered into by both parties, and both parties fully understood the terms of the agreement at the time, the courts will likely uphold all agreements in case of a less amicable split. However, if the agreement isn’t set up properly and has not covered all matters, or agreements disadvantage underage children, court may overrule the agreement set out.

This is why you should always speak to a solicitor to help you set out your cohabitation and prenuptial agreement, as they know exactly what must be included and how to ensure the document will be upheld in court.

Prenuptial agreements unfairly have a bad reputation in the UK, as courts in the past failed to uphold the agreements made during divorce proceedings, but after prenuptial agreements where upheld in bigger UK court cases and appeals the prenuptial agreement has significantly gone up in standing.

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