Cohabitation (living together) agreement

This cohabitation agreement template can be used to create a written record of understanding between the parties currently cohabiting or planning to do so in the future. The agreement allows you to agree on the distribution of finances, responsibilities and assets and the provision of child arrangements.
Suitable for use in: England & Wales and Scotland
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What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement is a written contract between people who live together or are planning on living together who are neither married nor civil partners.

A cohabitation agreement can be used to set down, amongst other practical matters, the cohabiting couple's financial obligations towards each other (for instance, amount to be contributed by each towards household expenses), regulate ownership of exisiting assets and property, and division of jointly owned assets and property acquired during the course of relationship (such as a joint bank account and jointly owned property) in case the relationship breaks.

The myth of "common law spouse"

Many cohabiting couples assume that if they are living together unmarried or not in a civil partnership then there are rules of ‘common law marriage' that give some legal protection in the same way as the law does for married couples.

However, common law rights are a myth. Even if your relationship is a long-term intimate one rather than a short-term living together arrangement, unlike in a marriage or civil partnership, you have no special rights under law.

Our cohabitation agreement template

If you are unmarried, neither in a civil partnership, and your relationship breaks up, you really are on your own.

This cohabitation agreement template (also known as a living together agreement and no nup agreement) helps you to work out and set down all the practical arrangements that need to be covered when two people who are neither married nor civil partners form a household.

We include optional paragraphs to allow you to sever a joint tenancy (if you own your property together) and to become tenants in common.

This document does not try to tell you what is best for you, but to steer and guide you into considering and dealing with the most important issues, so you can create your own cohabitation agreement.

This cohabitation agreement template covers arrangements about your joint bank accounts, home, business assets, who owns personal property, banking and money arrangements - and even provisional child support arrangements (which are not binding in law but would be taken into account by a judge).

The agreement can be used at any stage of living together before marriage.

Example situations in which this cohabitation agreement template would be used

Use this cohabitation agreement template if:

  • you are a couple living together unmarried who wish to buy a house with each other. One will contribute more towards a deposit, but the mortgage will be in both names. Among other issues, you want to set out what will happen to the house if you break up: what share each will own; who will live in it; or whether it will be sold and on what terms.
  • you have moved in with someone else who already owns a house. You want an arrangement where you contribute to her mortgage equally (instead of you paying her rent), but in return, you want to have a share of the value of the property assets in case of a relationship breakdown.
  • a friend has moved into your house. He has agreed to pay the utility and household bills and expenses instead of paying rent. You want to make it clear that your house remains your property and that he is not a beneficial owner in any way.
  • your partner has outstanding debts. You want to make sure that if you separate, you won't be liable to repay them.
  • you want to make sure that your long term partner cannot claim financial support or maintenance payments for living expenses should you separate. (Note that he cannot anyway, but by setting out an agreement in writing he is less likely to challenge you).
  • you have moved in with a flatmate and both of you have agreed to buy furniture and white goods for the property. You want to set out who owns what when you go your own way and what happens to joint property.
  • you own a business and you want to be sure your partner has no claim to a share of it, even if he works with you in it.

Making this cohabitation agreement legally binding

This cohabitation agreement template does not require any special action after you have edited it. It will be binding on both sides as you both sign and date one copy (although we advise that you print, date and sign two copies so that you both have one).

Your completed document will continue to be valid until you are married or a child is born.

Common questions

What file format is the document in?

We use DocX format for our cohabitation agreement template. Most word processing software can read it. If you ask us, we can convert a document to other formats for you as well.

Can I change add and delete paragraphs and change how it looks?

Yes. You can edit the cohabitation agreement template as much as would like. Our detailed guidance notes help you decide what to edit, from adding or removing paragraphs to simply changing fonts and colours.

When should we write a living together agreement?

A cohabitation agreement can be put in place at any time. Many couples do so just after they start to live together, and realise that practical matters need to be considered.

Importantly, the cohabitation agreement should be reviewed whenever there is a significant life event such as buying a property together, having a child, inheriting money, a change in financial status, or personal injury.

If you later decide to get married or enter into a civil partnership, your cohabitation agreement can be used as the basis for a prenuptial or postnuptial agreement.

How does the legal status of cohabitation agreements change on marriage?

If you get married or enter a civil partnership in the future, the legal status of the document changes. It becomes more like a prenuptial agreement. The effect is that if you then separate at some future date, the court will take this legal document into account, but will not be bound by it.

Does a solicitor need to review or approve the document, or witness me signing it for it to become binding?

You will often read that each partner needs to seek independent legal advice before signing the cohabitation agreement. The reason for this is that, like any other family law document, a living together agreement is only enforceable if both partners entered into the agreement freely and knew the implications of signing at the time (which can evidenced by the fact that the two parties sought independent legal advice).

Independent legal advice is not a requirement, but rather protects against the risks that you might not know what you are signing up to, or that your partner later claims that he or she did not. Whether you seek legal advice or not is very much a decision for you, based on the risks you perceive to exist.

If you would like reassurance that the document will achieve what you intend, then our lawyers can review it before you sign it and bring your attention to any matters you might have missed.

Once I have signed it, do I need to register it or have it notarised?

No. Both sides should simply keep a signed copy of the cohabitation agreement safe for future evidence of what was agreed.

What a cohabitation agreement should include

Our cohabitation agreement covers the important aspect relating to a cohabiting couple, including the following:

  • How you deal with your house or flat
  • Keeping your own business property
  • Separate ownership of assets
  • Banking and financial arrangements
  • Living expenses
  • Finance and borrowing
  • Children arrangements - now and on termination
  • What happens if the relationship ends
  • Division of capital assets
  • What one of you might pay to the other for self and children
  • If one of you dies
  • Explanatory notes and guidance

This document was written by a solicitor for Net Lawman. It complies with current English law.

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