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Why Unmarried Couples Need a Cohabitation Agreement

Added by Berlad Graham
October 16, 2023

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An increasing number of couples in England and Wales are now choosing to live together rather than get married or become civil partners.

Recent figures show that the number of couples in an intimate relationship choosing to cohabit increased by 144% between 1996 and 2021 and now stands at around 3.6 million.

However, the term ‘common-law marriage’ has long since been debunked, and cohabiting couples enjoy no extra protection under the law.

Living together without being married or in a civil partnership means you do not have the same legal rights as a married couple about property, finances and children. If a relationship between an unmarried couple breaks down, the same rules do not apply.

The best way for unmarried cohabiting couples to protect themselves and their assets is to make a cohabitation agreement.

In this blog, our experienced Family lawyers answer some frequently asked questions about cohabitation agreements and explore the benefits they offer unmarried couples.

What is a cohabitation agreement?

A cohabitation agreement (sometimes called a ‘living together agreement’ or a ‘no-nup’) is a legal document made between a couple that is living together.

Cohabitation agreements establish general living arrangements and set out what will happen to various assets a couple owns, either jointly or individually, should the relationship end or circumstances change.

They are enforceable by the courts, provided they are drafted and executed correctly, and we would always encourage anyone considering a cohabitation agreement to seek legal advice.

Our professional team of family lawyers at Berlad Graham LLP has extensive experience drafting such agreements to ensure they are legally binding and guarantee you the highest level of protection possible.

Cohabitation agreements can also be made between people who are not in a romantic relationship, such as flatmates or siblings, and can help divide up bills and other responsibilities while you are living together.

For more information about cohabitation agreements, call Berlad Graham on 0330 175 5655 or email

What does a cohabitation agreement include?

A cohabitation agreement sets out:

  • Who owns what, and in what proportion.
  • What a couple’s financial responsibilities towards each other will be.
  • How jointly owned assets will be divided should the relationship break down.

Cohabitation agreements are tailored to an individual’s needs and can include a broad set of arrangements, including:

  • Ownership of property, both that owned before the relationship and property bought together.
  • Deposit on your home.
  • What share of the mortgage or rent you will pay.
  • How household bills will be dealt with.
  • Bank accounts and money.
  • Life insurance.
  • Pensions.
  • Changes of circumstance, such as unemployment or illness.
  • Financial arrangements for any children post-separation.
  • Retirement planning.

What are the benefits of a cohabitation agreement?

Cohabitation agreements give much-needed peace of mind to unmarried couples who are living together by:

  • Establishing various rights and responsibilities to each other.
  • Securing rights to your partner’s property in the event of their death.
  • Protecting the economically weaker partner, for example, a parent who might have given up paid employment to care for any children.
  • Making use of certain tax reliefs or exemptions.
  • Avoiding potentially lengthy and expensive court proceedings in the event of a dispute.

When should a couple make a cohabitation agreement?

If you are thinking of moving in with your partner, or are in a couple that is already living together, you can make a cohabitation agreement. A couple can draw up a cohabitation agreement at any time.

Ideally, it should be made before you move in with a partner, but equally, one can be made when you have lived together for many years.

Cohabitation agreements should be reviewed regularly and updated as necessary, particularly if there has been a change in circumstances, such as the birth of a child or a change of employment status.

What happens to a cohabitation agreement if a couple decides to marry or become civil partners?

Provision for what happens if a couple gets married or enters a civil partnership can be included in the terms of the cohabitation agreement.

Couples may choose to include a clause that says marriage automatically revokes the cohabitation agreement or revise the document to say that its contents should be considered in the event of a divorce.

Many couples will opt to replace a cohabitation agreement with a prenuptial agreement (a ‘prenup’) if they get married or enter a civil partnership.

Cohabitation Agreement Solicitors Uxbridge, Hereford, and Shropshire

Our highly experienced family lawyers at Berlad Graham have helped many couples draw up cohabitation agreements tailored to their individual needs.

If you are thinking of moving in with your partner, or you are a couple that has recently moved in together and wants to shore up your relationship legally, please contact our team to discuss the options available to you.

To speak to our friendly, experienced, professional cohabitation lawyers today, please call 0330 175 5655 or email