Our Services:  Cohabitation Agreements


If you are intending to move in with your partner or you are already living with them our Cohabitation Lawyers in Bristol, Clevedon & Portishead can help.

The necessity of marriage in the path of adult relationships is something of the past. Unmarried couples are more and more frequently choosing to move in or buy a property together without any of the formal or legally binding commitments that marriage provides.

Living together agreements are an increasingly popular option couples can opt for when they want to make sure they are protected in the event of separation – but aren’t yet ready or wanting to get married. A living together arrangement will formalise the financial relationship you have between you and your partner in relation to your property and finances.

Expert Cohabitation Solicitors

At Harbour Family Law, we are specialist family solicitors, fully authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority, with a wealth of experience in assisting both married couples and unmarried couples. If you seek legal advice or are looking at heading into a cohabitation agreement, speak to a member of our team of expert solicitors and we can ensure you are covered in the event of a relationship breakdown.

Cohabitation Law Services

There is a perception that couples who are living together will automatically be seen as part of a “common law marriage” and offered many of the benefits and security that married couples enjoy. Although this is the case in some other countries, there are many legal differences in the UK between living with a partner long-term and being joined in an official marriage or civil partnership.

If your partner dies, and you were unmarried, you will not automatically receive any of their estates unless they made a will. In some circumstances, you may also struggle to prove how much of the money in a joint bank account was your property. In the case of a split, unmarried couples are not obliged to support each other financially, which could leave you in a difficult position if your partner is the main breadwinner. You also do not have automatic rights to stay in a rented or owned property that is under your partner’s sole name, so it is possible to find yourself homeless at short notice.

A particular worry for many unmarried couples is what will happen to their assets in the event that their relationship breaks down. The law is quite complicated when it comes to who has a legal right over possessions bought jointly and it can be difficult to prove who has ownership of what. If you are the sole owner of the house or apartment you live in, you may also be concerned about the possibility of your partner claiming to have “beneficial interest” in it if you break up, entitling them to a share of the property.

Your Initial Consultation

You can book an initial consultation with one of our expert solicitors to discuss your needs.

When you arrive for your initial consultation, you will receive a warm welcome from one of the specialist family law solicitors at one of our offices. We will listen attentively to the details of your situation and what you would like to achieve by creating the agreement. From there, we can begin to offer expert advice on the best way to move forward. We will also be able to give you an educated estimate of what this service is likely to cost.

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Cohabitation Agreements

A Cohabitation (Living Together) Agreement can put your mind at rest on many of these points. It is an official agreement you and your partner come to as to the arrangement of your finances.

It is useful to create one of these before you begin living together, but it can be created at any time. Cohabitation Agreements can include a record of how you intend various costs and bills to be covered during your time together, as well as what you agree should happen to your assets in the case of relationship breakdown, illness or death. A living together agreement can protect your property if you have substantially more assets than your partner. It can also be used to make a provision for both parties in the event of a break up, giving everyone involved a sense of security.

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Purchasing Property as an unmarried Couple

When buying property together, it is important to be completely transparent about your financial situation.

In circumstances where you are committing to paying unequal amounts into the mortgage or your initial deposit, having an agreement in place can offer you protection in the event of a relationship breakdown. Agreeing on how this asset might be split in the future can avoid expensive future court proceedings and give you clarity on your position. This is often covered by a Declaration of Trust.

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‘’Many thanks Katy your professionalism and the way you dealt with me personally throughout the divorce process. The combination of your compassion and sage advice was always spot on.’’

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Cohabitation Dispute Resolution

As family lawyers, we have a lot of experience in settling disputes between couples. If you and your partner are unable to agree on the details of your agreement, we can recommend services such as mediation, which may help to resolve matters between you. We can also help you with constructive negotiations through strong, expert legal guidance and representation.

As well as agreeing on the legal particulars in the event of a separation, you may also find it useful to include day-to-day matters in the agreement. If you wish, cohabitation agreements can cover how household bills will be paid, whether you will have separate or merged finances, and whether you may use the benefits of your partner’s pension.

Separation of Cohabiting Couples

Unlike those who are married or in a civil partnership, unmarried couples in the UK can separate without going through a legal process. However, in terms of property and joint assets, breaking up an established home can often be difficult and you may not know what you are entitled to. This can be particularly true if you did not draw up a cohabitation agreement or if your circumstances changed significantly since you made one. If you have children, you may also need help with deciding on future care arrangements.

Our qualified solicitors can offer advice and put you in touch with other professionals to help to you achieve the best possible result.

Declaration of Trust

If you’re buying a property with a partner or living in a property that they own, it can be wise to set up a Declaration of Trust. These documents provide a record of the proportions in which property is held and set out how the proceeds would be divided if the property is ever sold.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I draw up my own cohabitation agreement?

Yes, many couples do draft their own agreement. However, before signing, it’s recommended to have the contract checked by a trusted solicitor. This will ensure your wishes are properly reflected in legal language and leave you less vulnerable to loopholes.

How do I set up a cohabitation agreement?

We recommend making an appointment with a solicitor to plan what should be included in your cohabitation agreement and establish what you hope to get out of it, they will be able to help you find the best way forward. You can also use an online template to begin a discussion with your partner.

How long do you have to live together to be cohabiting?

You can create a cohabitation agreement as soon as you plan to begin living together, there isn’t a minimum time limit.

Are cohabitation agreements legally binding?

Financial elements of cohabitation agreements such as Declarations of Trust are legally binding. You may choose to include other practicalities about living arrangements in your living together agreement which are not court enforceable. However, in the event of a dispute, it may still be a valuable document to evidence what was agreed between you.
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