Cohabitation or moving in together is a big step and can have big consequences. Whereas the law defines the rights and obligations of partners to each other when they marry there are none automatically provided when they cohabit. The law will however enforce and give legal effect to what has been agreed between themselves by partners. If the intention is to live together much as in a marriage it is necessary to define the rights, obligations and entitlements which will apply and this is best done in a cohabitation agreement.
Cohabiting couples should draw up an agreement showing what has been decided will happen should the relationship break down when everything is friendly and amicable. It will be a chance to really get to know and understand your partner. You will learn whether your partner is financially responsible and trustworthy before taking on the commitment of marriage. They will also provide protection for a partner who has significantly greater assets or earning ability than the other. The small cost of making a cohabitation agreement will be repaid many times over in saving the cost of expensive court proceedings should things go wrong.
The cohabitation agreement deals not only with the financial arrangements of the relationship but is also sufficiently flexible to include just about anything else which needs to be recorded about how the couple plan their lives together.
Key elements are clauses dealing with:
• Ownership and entitlements to property and other assets owned by the parties and acquired during the cohabitation.
• Contribution to payment living expenses and the family outgoings.
• Treatment of inheritances, gifts and other monies acquired by one party.
• Arrangements in the event of separation.
• Wills and inheritance.