BOO! Did we scare you? No? Good because this next part might…
By cohabitants we don’t mean the attic you share with Casper the friendly ghost (at least he’s friendly!). It means someone you want to live with. Unfortunately for you this means sharing your snack drawer or losing your favourite side of the bed… if you’re kind enough, we know we wouldn’t.
Before we start, let’s put the scariest myth to bed – ‘common law marriage’ is NOT a thing. ‘Common law marriage’ is simply couples who live together. But some bad news for unmarried couples, you don’t have the same rights as a married couple. Meaning you are probably unprotected sooooo we can’t stop these ghosts and ghoulies from haunting your house. The final bit of bad news, we’re sorry, but once your partner moves in, it doesn’t mean Casper will move out, he’s too settled.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe You Now Have to Share…
A Cohabitation Agreement records arrangements between two or more people who have agreed to live together. It establishes each partner’s responsibilities relating to the property in which they live or intend to live, financial arrangements (by far the most frightening part), and what will happen after they no longer want to live together.
The Agreements will all vary, no two will be the same… we all have our demons in the closets. It’s all dependent on the needs and circumstances of the parties designing the Agreement. They can even include arrangements about the, hopefully hypothetical, break up. From things to who keeps the blender to the big bad bills.
Fun, Feelings, and Fairies
Although it may be gloomy and skeletal…um, we mean sceptical, we can promise you it avoids future problems that come along with a relationship breakdown. It keeps trachea (just some bone banter) legal and beneficial interests in the property. This avoids the gruesome litigation fees that might shake the bank right up!
By having the Agreement cohabitees have the flexibility to align their finances as their genie would grant them within their three wishes. The majority of cohabitees enter an agreement to sidestep the booby traps of a relationship breakdown.
The Enchanted Enchaining of a Cohabitation Agreement
These agreements were historically invalid as they were deemed to promote promiscuity pre-marriage. A devious divide arose later separating invaluably attractive agreements (considering sexual relations) from the more serious affairs.
The Law Commission agrees that Cohabitation Agreements are lawful and should be compared to the rulings of usual contracts. Meaning they should only be challenged on any of the principles of it such as fraud (yes, that means no blaming Casper), misrepresentation, or mistake.
When should I make an official Agreement with Casper?
Although it is a joke about Casper, you will probably, almost definitely, need one with your partner. The big question is…when? Luckily for you, they can be drawn up at any point during the relationship – before you cohabit or even after many, many years.
Just a top tip, like any legal document, we would recommend you check your agreement periodically and make amends as necessary especially in line with major life events such as turning into as a vampire or becoming a werewolf at every full moon (we’re only kidding, or we hope we are anyways!). We actually mean things like having children or undergoing changes to financial status.
What should I include in this monster document?
To break this down for you, here’s a quick (ish) list:
- Property owned prior to cohabiting – this is helpful if you want to confirm that previous property will be kept as a separate asset.
- Property jointly purchased – if bought together but only one partner is named on the agreement, the agreement can be used to record their respective beneficial ownership.
- Household bills – as much as we agree that bills are the devil’s work, they can’t be avoided – gutting, we know! But this explains contributions to the mortgage payments, and how this entitles the unofficial owner. It also outlines how they will be handled post-break up. If the bills are paid from a joint account, this makes the matter much easier but the split between bills should be equitable and fair. It is up to the couple to decide how the bills will be shared. For example, often couples will agree one pays mortgage or rent whilst the other pays for childcare, food shop, gas bills and so on.
- Inheritance and wills – a pretty ghastly topic but just be thankful you’re not a zombie. Unmarried couples don’t automatically gain the other’s estate should they pass away without a will (in testate), but they may have a claim under the Inheritance Act 1975.
- Independent legal advice – this is an integral part of drawing up the agreement. Should the break down reach the court (for your sake, we hope it doesn’t), it is much more likely to stand if you can show you accepted legal advice.
Creepy cost conversation…
Oh my ghost-ness, not a chat about costs already! Well, luckily, it’s pretty vague. The cost of the agreement is variable dependent on the complexity of your case but usually drawing up a cohabitation agreement starts at around £1500. You might think, after seeking further information (from us, of course), you might think it’s expensive BUT settling it in court makes the agreement costs look like they’re just £1.
We hope we haven’t scared you stiff because realistically, it’s really quite simple. Cohabitation agreement = Cohabitation ‘appiness.