How to write a cohabitation contract
One common circumstance in which a Cohabitation Agreement may be entered into is when a couple purchases a property in joint names but makes unequal payments.
When a couple purchases a home in joint names but contributes unequally to the cost of acquisition, this is an example of a frequent situation in which a Cohabitation Agreement may be executed. In this situation, a Cohabitation Agreement can effectively isolate their distinct contributions in the event of a divorce. However, these agreements are tailored to the couple's unique circumstances and can include a wide variety of topics: there is no "one size fits all" solution.
This agreement is likely to be recognised a legally enforceable contract if it is formalised in writing, officially signed, and witnessed. No such thing as a "cooling down time" exists. Regardless of later changes in the parties' circumstances, it can be exceedingly challenging (and even impossible) to alter or terminate a legally binding contract. Before signing, parties desiring to enter into such agreements should get competent legal counsel to ensure that the contract satisfies its intended purpose. Despite the fact that each agreement will be adapted to the individual circumstances of the parties, it may be prudent to examine some criteria in all situations.
What should be included in a cohabitation agreement?
On separation, spouses and civil partners have access to a substantially greater range of rights than cohabitants. Prior to signing a cohabitation agreement, it is prudent to determine whether the terms of the agreement should continue to apply in the case of marriage or civil partnership. If a wedding is imminent, cohabitants may choose to form a prenuptial agreement to ensure their preferences about specific assets are clearly communicated.
Cohabitants have the right to file financial claims upon the dissolution of their partnership. A properly drafted cohabitation agreement might limit the parties' capacity to make such claims. If a Cohabitation Agreement is intended to cover only one specific situation, such as the purchase of a property in joint names, it is imperative that the parties understand if the agreement extends beyond that and prohibits parties from making any costly financial claims.
Is a Cohabitation Agreement legally enforceable after death?
A Cohabitation Agreement is not always enforceable against the decedent's inheritance. If the parties want the Agreement to continue to apply after death, they must insert a provision to that effect. Failure to include this may result in a conclusion that goes against the cohabitant's interests.
What If My Situation Has Changed?
A Cohabitation Agreement binds the parties to its provisions, and there is no legislative provision that permits courts to invalidate agreements automatically if either party's circumstances change. This implies that if an arrangement is established to give, for example, a hefty monthly maintenance payment to one cohabitant, and the partnership dissolves, the payer may be compelled forever by the maintenance clause if there is no particular provision stating that this obligation would cease.
Cohabitation Agreements are a useful instrument that may give spouses with financial peace of mind. However, the list of potential problems with a cohabitation agreement is practically limitless. Even if cohabitants negotiate their agreement with the greatest of intentions, they may be surprised by the unexpected, especially if complex topics are involved. Obtaining legal counsel for contract drafting is likely money well spent. A poorly-understood contract might cost thousands of pounds, not to mention a number of restless nights.